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Palestinians disappointed after US House vote

Dec. 16, 2010 9:54 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 17, 2011 9:46 P.M.)
By: George Hale

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- PLO officials expressed disappointment Thursday over a resolution passed by the US House of Representatives condemning unilateral attempts to gain recognition of a Palestinian state.

"The Palestinian right to freedom and self-determination is not contingent on the approval of the state of Israel," the PLO mission to the United States said in an emailed statement.

"Members of congress who are truly concerned about the safety and security of Israelis should recognize that they will never be safeguarded until Palestinians gain their freedom and legal rights," it said.

Wednesday's House measure comes after Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay recognized a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, the boundaries before Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The resolution reaffirms the "strong support" in the lower chamber of the US Congress "for a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resulting in two states, a democratic, Jewish state of Israel and a viable, democratic Palestinian state."

The text also "reaffirms its strong opposition to any attempt to establish or seek recognition of a Palestinian state outside of an agreement negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians."

It urges Palestinian leaders to "cease all efforts at circumventing the negotiation process" and calls on foreign governments "not to extend such recognition."

In the West Bank, a member of the PLO negotiating team, Mohammad Shtayyeh, criticized the vote and questioned why the Americans did not take a harder line on unilateral Israeli measures.

"If America isn't in a position to oblige Israel into freezing settlements for 90 days, how will it convince us they're ready to begin decolonizing the West Bank?" he said at a briefing in Beit Jala, near Bethlehem.

Shtayyeh said the Palestinians nevertheless backed a strong US role in the peace process.

The EU on Monday stopped short of outright recognition of a Palestinian state despite mounting pressure to break the impasse, but did reaffirm its readiness to recognize it at an "appropriate" time.

Direct peace talks collapsed after Washington admitted it had failed to secure Israel's agreement to a new freeze on settlement building, the PLO's condition for continuing to negotiate.

US envoy George Mitchell earlier this week held two days of talks with Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas to try to find a way to keep the sides engaged in the search for peace.

The US focus is now on new ideas, with Mitchell proposing six weeks of "parallel" talks, where negotiators would hold separate talks with the Americans in a format which would not be viewed as "negotiations," a Palestinian official told AFP on Wednesday.

AFP contributed to this report.
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