Palestinians to push UN vote despite US veto warning

Palestinians to push UN vote despite US veto warning
France's upper house of parliament voted 154 vs 146 on a proposal to recognise Palestine as a state.

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories - The Palestinians will press ahead Wednesday with a UN bid to boost their hopes of statehood, despite a warning that the US will block the move, officials said.

"We will submit our project to the UN Security Council tomorrow," a senior advisor to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas told AFP late Tuesday.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has held three days of intense talks in Europe seeking to head off a pre-Christmas crisis at the UN Security Council.

But the Palestinians told him in London talks that they would go ahead as planned, receiving a sharp warning from Kerry that the US would veto the resolution, another Palestinian official said.

In an escalating battle of wills, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat shot back that if Washington uses its veto to scupper their plans, the Palestinians would then apply to join a series of international organisations.

They include the International Criminal Court, another move opposed by Washington which fears the Palestinians will seek to try Israeli officials for alleged war crimes.

Kerry had earlier called for caution, saying nothing should be allowed to "interfere" with preparations for snap elections in Israel in March.

Speaking to reporters just before he met Erakat, the top US diplomat said it was "imperative" to help lower tensions.

"Many of us share a deep sense of urgency about this," Kerry said.

"But we're also very mindful that we have to carefully calibrate any steps that are taken for this difficult moment in the region," he said.

There have been reports of competing Arab-backed and French-led resolutions - with the Palestinians pushing one that would set a two-year deadline for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinians lands.

But Mohammed Shtayyeh, a member of Abbas's inner circle, said France had "accommodated" the Palestinians.

"We have merged. We don't have two texts now. There is one single text. We have happily accepted the French text when the modifications have been added," he said, without elaborating.

Asked what kind of resolution Washington might be able to support at the UN, Kerry insisted the US administration has "made no determinations... about language, approaches, specific resolutions, any of that."

Stem the violence

While Kerry refused to detail his private conversations, he stressed the US believed no-one should "interfere or do something that might be perceived of as interfering in the course" of the Israeli elections.

"What we're trying to do is have a constructive conversation with everybody to find the best way to go forward," Kerry added.

"We want to find the most constructive way of doing something that... will not have unintended consequences, but also can stem the violence."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned late Monday after meeting Kerry for almost three hours in Rome that his country would oppose any resolution that would harm his country.

"Attempts of the Palestinians and of several European countries to force conditions on Israel will only lead to a deterioration in the regional situation and will endanger Israel," he said in a statement.

"Therefore, we will strongly oppose this."

A State Department official made no mention of whether Kerry had threatened the Palestinians with a US veto at the United Nations.

The official merely said in a statement that Kerry had discussed the US "interest in finding a path forward to reduce tensions and de-escalate the situation on the ground."

"All the parties agreed to continue their consultations going forward," the official added.

Several European parliaments have called on their governments to move ahead with the recognition of a Palestinian state.

And a US veto risks running contrary to Washington's avowed aim of a Palestinian state and would anger key Arab allies, many of whom are much-needed partners in the US-led coalition against Islamic State militants.

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