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US Congress backs PA aid cuts over reconciliation deal

July 8, 2011 9:49 A.M. (Updated: July 10, 2011 11:43 A.M.)
WASHINGTON (AFP) -- The US House of Representatives on Thursday warned the Palestinians that they risk cuts in US aid if they pursue UN recognition of a future state not defined in direct talks with Israel.

In an overwhelming 406-6 vote, lawmakers backed a symbolic resolution sending a stern message to the Palestinians one week after the US Senate unanimously approved a similar measure.

The bill also urged US President Barack Obama to consider suspending aid to the Palestinian Authority pending a view of a unity deal between President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction and Gaza rulers Hamas.

"Any Palestinian unity government must publicly and formally forswear terrorism, accept Israel's right to exist, and reaffirm previous agreements made with Israel," it says.

Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Democratic House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer crafted the resolution.

The measure reaffirmed US support for a two-state solution that would see "a democratic, Jewish state of Israel and a viable, democratic Palestinian state, living side-by-side in peace, security and mutual recognition."

But it warned of "serious implications for the United States assistance programs for the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority" if they seek UN recognition of a future state not crafted in talks with Israel.

Peace talks ground to a halt in September 2010 when Israel failed to renew a partial freeze on settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.

Since then, the Palestinians have refused to return to talks as long as Israel builds on land they want for a future state.

They are planning to seek recognition of their state within the 1967 lines that preceded the Six-Day War when the UN General Assembly meets in September, despite the opposition of both Israel and the United States.

France has indicated that it might recognize an independent Palestinian state if peace talks are not back on track by September.

Germany, like the United States, is opposed to any unilateral steps and accepts the Israeli position that any progress must be made through negotiations.

The resolution supports Obama's opposition to a Palestinian push at the UN and urges him to announce that Washington will veto any resolution on Palestinian statehood before the UN Security Council unless it is the result of Israel-Palestinian talks.

The planned vote came as envoys from the so-called diplomatic "Quartet" for Middle East peace -- the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States -- were to meet in Washington on July 11.

The United States had hesitated for months over organizing the meeting before securing substantial progress towards a return to negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
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