British Foreign Minister William Hague said the European Union was holding off on announcing its official position on a looming Palestinian bid for UN membership in hopes of encouraging a return to Israel-Palestinian peace talks.
Ahead of talks with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in New York on Tuesday, Hague said the 27 EU nations were remaining silent as to how they planned to vote on Friday "in order to exert as much pressure on both sides to return to negotiations."
"Important meeting with Palestinian President Abbas today: will discuss how to restart peace talks & building Palestinian institutions," Hague said on Twitter from New York on Tuesday.
Abbas has said he is determined to go ahead with the controversial plan to force a vote on membership for a Palestinian state at the UN General Assembly this week, despite mounting international pressure.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy will meet with Abbas on Tuesday, while other EU foreign ministers are also expected to try to break the impasse.
Hague said in a statement that the "best outcome" would be a return to peace talks, adding that the current campaign to obtain full Palestinian membership at the UN Security Council "will just lead to confrontation" and would likely be vetoed by the United States.
"We, along with all the other 26 countries of the European Union, have withheld our position on how we would vote on any resolution that may come forward in the General Assembly in order to exert as much pressure on both sides to return to negotiations. That is the only real way forward," he said in a statement issued on Monday.
"What we want to see is negotiations that bring about a Palestinian state, the so-called ‘two-state solution’ of Israel being able to live in peace and security but a viable Palestinian state alongside it."
During talks with Abbas, Hague added, "all the pressure we're exerting will be in that direction of returning to negotiations to find a two-state solution to allow a Palestinian state truly to come into being."
Hague, a conservative, said he would also discuss the matter with Britain's former Labour prime minister Tony Blair, who is now special envoy for the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East.