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PA's UN draft resolution condemning settlements left in question

April 22, 2016 3:49 P.M. (Updated: April 28, 2016 4:37 P.M.)
The resolution would be the first to condemn Israeli settlements as illegal under international law since the US vetoed a similar resolution in 2011. (AFP/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Authority on Thursday sent contradictory signals as to whether it was still planning to submit a draft resolution to the UN Security Council condemning Israel's settlements.

Media reports on Thursday suggested PA Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki, who is currently at the UN headquarters in New York with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, was planning to shelf the draft resolution in order to focus instead on a French peace initiative.

"We have agreed that our move at the Security Council should not jeopardize in any way the French initiative," al-Maliki was quoted as telling reporters in New York. "We should really sail smoothly in a way that the French initiative will continue."

He reportedly made the comments after Abbas met for talks with Chinese Ambassador Liu Jieyi, who is chairing the Security Council this month.

Abbas' arrival in New York follows a tour of several state capitals, including Paris, where he met with French President Francois Hollande and welcomed a new French peace initiative.

As part of the initiative, France has said it will invite foreign ministers from across the world -- although initially not from Israel or Palestine -- to take part in a conference in Paris at the end of May.

Reporters understood al-Maliki to be putting the UN draft resolution on hold on Thursday, although the foreign minister's office quickly issued a statement denying it had postponed its efforts to seek a UN Security Council draft resolution.

The statement said there was a "need for the Security Council to issue a resolution calling for an end to settlement construction," and that it was still holding consultations with "Arab and 'friendly' countries" about the proposal.

The foreign ministry added that it was "totally convinced that heading to the Security Council is an important step," although it did not specify a timeframe.

Abbas is only in New York until Saturday, and a Palestinian official told Ma'an earlier this month that he would use the occasion to submit the draft resolution -- the first to condemn Israeli settlements as illegal under international law since the US vetoed a similar resolution in 2011.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has condemned the draft resolution, saying it would serve as an obstacle to peace talks, although, the Palestinian official, who wished to remain anonymous, noted that the move stemmed directly from decades of failed negotiations.

"If not now, when? There’s always an excuse when it comes to Palestinian issues. In 2011, people still had hopes for negotiations, but people don't believe in negotiations anymore," he said.

There have been hopes US President Barack Obama might be willing to back a UN resolution condemning Israel, which would be a break with all precedent for the US, which has, since 2000, used its veto a total of 10 times to protect Israel from critical draft resolutions.

In spite of this, diplomats have reportedly said that countries including Egypt and Saudi Arabia -- both allies of the US -- have discouraged the Palestinians from submitting the draft resolution.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, has also criticized the French initiative, reportedly saying earlier this week: "Can anyone explain what this initiative is about? Even the French don't know."
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