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Palestinians see progress in EU stance on UN bid

Aug. 28, 2011 9:04 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 30, 2011 11:42 A.M.)
RAMALLAH (AFP) -- The Palestinian leadership sees "progress" in the European Union's position on its plan to seek UN membership next month, a senior PLO official told AFP on Sunday.

"There is progress in the European stance and a willingness to coordinate with the Palestinian leadership over the type of resolution we are looking for," said PLO secretary general Yasser Abed Rabbo a day after president Mahmoud Abbas met in Ramallah with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Central to the talks in the West Bank town was the Palestinian plan to seek full membership in the United Nations when its General Assembly meets next month in New York despite Israeli and US opposition.

"We will inform them of every move and we won't surprise them with anything," Abed Rabbo said.

"We have seen progress in the European position which is demonstrated through the EU's willingness to coordinate over the PLO's steps in going to the UN," he said.

Ashton arrived in the region on Saturday for a three-day visit aimed at pushing Israel and the Palestinians to resume direct negotiations, which have been on hold since last September in an intractable dispute over Israeli settlement building.

Abbas said on Sunday that success in his UN bid would change the status of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict under international law.

"International recognition of our state based on the 1967 borders will make it a state under occupation. It will change the legal formula of our situation," Abbas said in a joint interview with Jordan's Al-Dustur daily and Qatar's Al-Watan newspaper, without elaborating.

During talks with Abbas on Saturday evening, Ashton said the EU position would depend on the wording of the Palestinian proposal to be presented to UN chief Ban Ki-moon on September 20, Palestinian official Saeb Erekat told AFP.

Abbas told her that European support for the bid was crucial in order to safeguard the peace process, Erekat said.

"The president asked the EU to do everything to help us because the Palestinian bid is a way to preserve the peace process and the two-state solution and is based on international law and UN resolutions," he said.

"We are facing an Israeli government which refuses to acknowledge the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, and refuses to stop settlement activities so the international community must help and support us in this bid," Erekat said.

Europe is currently divided over the Palestinian bid for UN membership, with Germany and Italy publicly opposed to the move, while Spain has said it will vote in favor; Britain and France are keeping their cards close to their chests.

Shortly before meeting Ashton, Abbas said that seeking UN membership was a direct result of the world's failure to help the Palestinians secure their legal rights.

"We are going to the UN to ask for full membership for a Palestinian state. We wouldn't be going if the international community had given us a solution which complied with international law -- one based on the 1967 borders and a halt to settlement activity," he said in a speech to religious leaders in Ramallah.

"But without that, we will go to the UN," he said, while stressing that the bid would not prevent a "return to the negotiating table."

"Regardless of the outcome at the UN, there are issues that cannot be solved without negotiating," he said.

"Our decision does not seek to isolate Israel, nor to enter into a confrontation with the United States. Our objective is to realize our dream of gaining international recognition for our Palestinian state at the UN with full sovereignty on the lands occupied in 1967."

On Friday, Erekat urged both Brussels and Washington to support the Palestinian bid for UN membership.

"Maintaining the peace process and the principle of two states on the borders of June 1967 requires that the EU and the United States support the application for full membership of Palestine in the UN," he said.

Ashton was to meet later on Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as with other top Israeli officials, and would have breakfast with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman early on Monday before heading to Jordan.

Abed Rabbo said Ashton was expected to meet ministers from the Arab League monitoring committee in early September "to coordinate the Arab and European positions."
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