Abbas: Only solution is to declare Palestinian state
EU rejects Palestinian bid for unilateral declaration of state; Swedish FM: Conditions not yet ripe.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday that the impasse in the peace process left him no choice but to seek international recognition, AFP reported, even as Europe and Washington discouraged the move.
"We feel we are in a very difficult situation," he was quoted as saying in Cairo after talks with Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak. "What is the solution for us? To remain suspended like this, not in peace? That is why I took this step."
Earlier this week, Palestinian officials said they intended to ask the United Nations Security Council to recognize a state, in a move analysts said was aimed at pressuring Israel amid floundering U.S. efforts to revive peace negotiations.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in response that any unilateral action would undo the framework of past accords and lead to one-sided actions by Israel. But Abbas on Tuesday said the move was not unilateral and enjoyed the backing of Arab countries.
"The decision emanates from an Arab follow-up committee (of the Arab League) that was convened recently ... and which agreed to go the Security Council for it to say that it supports an independent Palestinian state," AFP quoted him as saying.
The Palestinian leader spoke as the European Union rejected the Palestinian Authority's request to back its plan for gaining recognition as an independent state.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose country holds the EU presidency, explained that the EU does not believe conditions are ripe yet for such a move. The EU is not on the Security Council, but EU members France and Britain are permanent council members that wield veto power.
"The Palestinian plan is clearly an act borne by a difficult situation where they don't see any road ahead," said Bildt.
The EU's foreign ministers on Tuesday were discussing ways to coordinate with the United States to get Palestinians and Israelis back to peace talks, said Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU's external relations commissioner.
"The most important thing until now is to really help the Americans bring both sides to the table," she said.
The Palestinian Authority is coming under increasing pressure from Israel and the international community to back down from its threat to unilaterally declare a state without first concluding a peace agreement with Israel.
On Monday evening, the United States on Monday reaffirmed its support for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through negotiations, in its first official response to the Palestinian plan.
"It is our strong belief and conviction that the best means to achieve the common goal of a contiguous and viable Palestine is through negotiations between the parties," the U.S. State Department said in a statement.
U.S. senators visiting Israel said earlier in the day that on Monday that Washington would veto a Palestinian declaration of statehood in the United Nations Security Council.
The idea of seeking UN intervention has been gaining steam in the Arab world as the impasse in peacemaking drags on. The Palestinians seek a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in 1967.
The senators said the threat by Palestinian officials to take the issue to a UN resolution was a waste of time and would go nowhere. They urged Arab states to stop it.
"It would be D.O.A. - dead on arrival," Democratic Party Senator Ted Kaufman (DE) told a news conference in Jerusalem. "It's a waste of time."
Senator Joseph Lieberman (CT), an independent, said "an essentially unilateral" declaration of statehood was the one thing that would not move the stalled peace process forward."