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Erekat: UN bid aims to preserve two-state solution

Nov. 8, 2012 1:14 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 9, 2012 12:12 P.M.)
JERICHO (Ma'an) -- Israel's settlement policy is threatening the two-state solution, not the PLO's bid to upgrade Palestine's status at the UN, PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said Thursday.

Erekat said Palestine's request for non-member statehood of the UN did not contradict the two-state solution, in separate meetings with Quartet envoy Tony Blair, US consul Michael Ratney and French consul Frédéric Desagneaux.

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned President Mahmoud Abbas against making any unilateral moves which could "push peace back," referring to the upcoming UN bid.

Abbas has countered that Israel's illegal settlement construction in the West Bank is "unilateral."

Erekat said Israel had chosen US election day to announce the construction of 1,213 homes on annexed West Bank land.

Israel anti-settlement group Peace Now said the decision to announce the new settlement homes on election day was deliberate.

"It seems that Netanyahu is afraid of the new administration that is being elected today in the US, and he has chosen the day of election to publish the tenders so that there will be the least public attention to his action," Peace Now said.

Erekat told the international envoys that Israel's settlement building violates the principle of two states, international law and signed agreements.

He said efforts should focus on ending settlement building on occupied Palestinian land, rather than the PLO's UN bid which he said aimed to preserve the two-state solution.

The PLO executive committee member said he hoped US President Barack Obama would work to achieve the two-state solution during his second term in office.

US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters Wednesday that Washington would continue to work "very vigorously" on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The US works very closely with Blair in his role as UN envoy to the peace process, Nuland said, adding that their goals were "identical."

"We want to see these parties get to the negotiating table and we will continue to work to facilitate that," she said, declining to elaborate on whether Obama would launch any new initiatives.

On Wednesday, Blair declined to endorse or condemn the PLO's UN initiative, but warned against hasty reactions.

"We have to understand the position the Palestinians find themselves in. It is all about the credibility of the steps towards statehood. It is very much in our interests to offer them a way forward that allows us one way or another to get back to the negotiating table," Blair said in an interview with Reuters.

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