Britain, France and Germany want the United Nations and the European Union to propose the outlines of a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state, UN diplomats said.
The three European countries, all members of the UN Security Council, are pressing for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the European Union to propose a settlement text at a meeting in mid-April of the Quartet of Mideast mediators, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because talks are taking place in private.
The quartet includes the UN, EU, U.S. and Russia. The aim is to get a basis for direct Israeli-Palestinian talks to resume.
Putting the job in the hands of the EU and the UN would sideline the United States, Israel's closest ally which has tried unsuccessfully for months to get face-to-face negotiations going, as well as Russia, an ally of the Palestinians.
The big question mark is whether the United States would allow the Europeans and UN to take the lead in trying to resolve the standoff, and that is likely to depend on whether the Israelis give a green light, the diplomats said.
The Israelis and Palestinians have agreed to President Barack Obama's target date of September 2011 for an agreement, but negotiations collapsed weeks after they restarted last September.
The Palestinians insist they will not resume peace talks until Israel halts settlement building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War which the Palestinians want for their future state.
The U.S. veto on February 18 of a Security Council resolution that would have condemned Israeli settlements as illegal and demanded an immediate halt to all settlement building spurred Britain, France and Germany, who supported the measure, to issue a joint statement expressing serious concern about the stalemate in the Middle East peace process.
Since the U.S. efforts have been unsuccessful, diplomats said the three European powers decided to try a new approach in hopes of breaking the deadlock.
The diplomats said the three European countries have delivered the message in key capitals - including Washington and Jerusalem - that if the parameters of a final settlement are endorsed, the Palestinians will return to the negotiating table.
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