'Obama Trying to Head Off Trainwreck at UN in September'

Outgoing U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell tells Charlie Rose that the UN recognizing a Palestinian state would be 'very harmful for Israel, for the U.S., and not good for the peace process.'

Haaretz Service
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Haaretz Service

Outgoing U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell told Charlie Rose in a PBS interview on Thursday that U.S. President Barack Obama is trying to head off a "train wreck" at the United Nations this September, when the Palestinians plan on bringing the issue of an independent state to the General Assembly.

"The United Nations does not have the authority to recognize states," Mitchell said. Recognition of a state, especially if passed by an overwhelming margin at the UN, would be "very harmful for Israel, for the United States, and not good for the peace process."

The United States has consistently expressed the opinion that bringing the issue of a Palestinian state to the UN is harmful to the peace process with Israel. Despite this, several countries, have already granted recognition to an independent Palestinian state of their own accord.

In a recent meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned against unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state, saying "We do not think that unilateral steps are helpful."

The way the Middle East conflict is going to end, Mitchell said is "by an agreement in which the United States plays an active and substantive role but an agreement that will be owned by, be the property of, and be the result of negotiation by Israelis and Palestinians."

The envoy also spoke about the recent reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, saying "obviously we hope that Abbas and the Fatah Party will win the election, not Hamas."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, joined by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mideast envoy George Mitchell in Egypt, Sept. 14, 2010Credit: AP

"We are for democracy," Mitchell said, but warned that "if Hamas is a participant in that government and they stick to their current position" the U.S. would be cut off.

"What President Abbas has for many years stood for [is] non-violence and negotiation as the way to achieve the proper result," Mitchell said. "He's the person that Israel and the United States and others should be empowering to try to get him back into the talks on a basis that will permit an agreement to be reached."

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