Palestinians nix US bid to avoid UN settlement vote

AFP , Thursday 17 Feb 2011

Palestinian Authority rejects US pressures to withdraw a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements

The Palestinians have refused a compromise offered by Washington to withdraw a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements, foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki said Thursday.

The draft resolution, which is to be debated by the UN Security Council on Friday, contains a condemnation of settlement building on occupied Palestinian land and calls for it to be stopped.

The United States, which regularly uses its Security Council veto power to stop anti-Israeli initiatives, has pledged to oppose the resolution, and instead proposed a non-binding statement condemning settlement activity.

"The US administration, through its UN ambassador (Susan Rice), made a proposal to the Palestinian ambassador and the Arab group in order to dissuade us from asking the Security Council to condemn and demand a halt to Israeli settlement in the Palestinian territories, particularly in east Jerusalem," Maliki told AFP, saying they turned down the offer.

"Instead of a vote on the draft resolution, the Security Council would issue a non-binding statement firmly rejecting settlement activity and criticising Israel's positions, particularly its failure to apply the roadmap," he said, referring the 2003 peace plan published by the Middle East Quartet.

The proposed statement would also lay out the Security Council's readiness to send UN envoys "to examine close up the realities on the ground," he added.

The draft resolution, filed last month by representatives of Arab countries, condemns Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in line with the policy of the international community, including the United States.

Washington, however, is opposed to the resolution, arguing that the only way to resolve such issues is through negotiations.

World powers are currently seeking ways to get Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table after talks broke down in late 2010 in a dispute over Jewish settlement construction.

The Palestinians -- who have non-voting observer status at the United Nations -- are refusing to resume negotiations while Israel builds on land they want for their future state, but efforts to convince Israel to impose a new ban have failed.

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