Thursday, Oct. 17
Latest News
  1. Palestinian goverment: 26 million in development of ministries
  2. Rudeineh: Washington us unable to achieve anything by itself
  3. US: “No plan for unilateral annexation by Israel of the West Bank"
  4. Cluster of incendiary balloons land in southern Israel
  5. Palestinian FM condemns Germany's vote to define BDS as 'anti-Semitic'
  6. Israeli forces forcibly evict Muslim worshipers from Al-Aqsa
  7. Israeli forces detain 14-year-old Palestinian near Ramallah
  8. Erekat: Deviation from peace terms of reference doomed to fail
  9. Iceland's Hatari shocks Eurovision with Palestinian flags
  10. UNRWA: 4 Palestinian children killed in attack on Syria refugee camp

UK will consider UN resolution, but talks remain goal

Jan. 20, 2011 11:42 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 21, 2011 8:16 P.M.)
By Nora Parr

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- As Palestinians table a draft resolution at the UN, hoping to push international actors to make an official move on Israeli settlements, the UK's minister for the Middle East wrapped up a tour of the West Bank and Israel, and gave little indication that Britain would come out in favor of the draft.

"It's not up for decision immediately," Alistair Burt said. "Our position on settlements that the draft resolution covers is generally pretty well known, pretty well covered ... We hold settlements to be illegal in occupied territories, and we’ve made that very clear when we deal with the government of Israel."

While Burt said the UK's delegation at the UN would "consider any draft resolution carefully," the policy of the government remained a return to direct negotiations.

"Anything that is a hurdle, or a barrier to be cleared, is not particularly helpful. We’ve said that in relation to the settlements," he said, applying the idea also to the resolution condemning those settlements.

"I made a statement on the Shepherd's Hotel," he noted, a reference to the demolition of the former home of a Jerusalem mufti who was exiled under the British and whose property eventually landed in the hands of a private Israeli settlement developer who razed it last week.

In his statement, Burt said the UK had "always been clear that settlements are illegal and an obstacle to peace. Pushing ahead with this plan [to demolish the hotel] would be a deeply unhelpful move and hinder efforts to resume talks between the two parties leading to a two-state solution to this conflict."

The principle element to be determined in the consideration of the resolution, he said, was to understand how it fit into the policy on the return to direct negotiations.

Palestinian officials, in their bid to have the resolution adopted, have said that a UN reaffirmation on the issue and a forced end to settlement construction -- which US mediators failed to secure during two months of bilateral talks -- would open the door to a return to negotiations.

On Wednesday, PLO negotiator Nabil Sha'ath told a delegation of French senators that he believed the US would not use its veto, given all the statements from the administration condemning settlements and their continued construction.

Israeli analysts, however, have said the US has made it clear that officials would not let the resolution pass, prompting cries from critics and accusations that US statements have been confined to rhetoric.

"Don’t dismiss the rhetoric," Burt urged. But he noted that in the British case, words represent "clear positions taken by the British government that are down on paper and which are there for the press, for the public and for the Israeli government to see.

"This is serious stuff that the government puts in writing."

Burt said he, a former member of the Conservative Friends of Israel, "is quite often picked up" on issues he has raised in the House of Commons. "It's down in the Hansard that I have condemned the Shepherd’s Hotel demolition, that we disagree with the settlement policy, of the Israeli detentions policy, of the [late-night arrests of] children."

He added: "In answering questions in Israel about British government policy, I don’t get many people who say, ‘Oh you’re too soft on us, you know’. I do get plenty the other way."

On his appointment in the spring, the Conservative Friends of Israel called Burt the right choice for the post. Palestinian observers were not as sure. Would Burt's support of Israel bias him in the building of British policy?

"No, what it gives is an appreciation and understanding for the Israeli position over a long time and the ability to talk very directly to friends," Burt said, adding that "No one in Israel is in a position, or has even thought of querying my sense of understanding of what Israel is and what it wishes to be, and always wanted to see an Israel that was at ease and peace with its neighbors, and to have the ability to work for that is very important.

"I’m friends with the middle East, I’ve been warmly received by my Palestinian friends who have respected the fact that I have a direct engagement with Israel, that I hope have seen through my actions and my contacts with them and what I have said in the house of commons on these issues of concern, I hope that they have been able to see that I am an objective supporter of British foreign policy.

"We all have good friends on all different sides of issues; it's how you use your friendship that is the most important thing. I hope I’ve given people a clear sense of how I want to use that friendship in the best interests of peace in the Middle East."

On unilateral declarations of statehood

During Burt's visit to the region, Russian President Dimitry Medvedev reaffirmed his nation's recognition of a Palestinian state, saying the Soviet Union's recognition of then president Yasser Arafat's 1988 declaration of independence remained valid.

Palestinians continue to press the world community to recognize a state on the 1967 borders, with a wave of success in South America and now a foothold in Europe.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, however, said following requests from PA officials that recognition would come when it was "appropriate."

"We cannot recognize a state that does not have a capital, and doesn’t have borders," Burt said.

"We are looking forward to recognizing a Palestinian state at the end of the negotiations on settlements because our position is again very straightforward: We wish to see a two-state solution, a secure and recognized Israel side by side with a viable Palestine, Jerusalem as a joint capital and agreed borders. That’s where we want to get to. When we get there, that of course will imply a recognition of a state of Palestine."

Most Read
Powered By: HTD Technologies
Ma'an News Agency
All rights reserved © 2005-2015