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EU calls for possible recognition of Palestinian state

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, has called for UN recognition of a Palestinian state in the event that the two parties fail to reach an agreement before a proposed internationally imposed deadline passes. In a speech delivered in London on Saturday, Mr Solana said that a resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict "remains central to a more stable and peaceful Middle East."

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, has called for UN recognition of a Palestinian state in the event that the two parties fail to reach an agreement before a proposed internationally imposed deadline passes. In a speech delivered in London on Saturday, Mr Solana said that a resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict "remains central to a more stable and peaceful Middle East." He said: "There will be no solution without an active Arab contribution. The Arab Peace Initiative is key. Maybe it has to be made more operative. Its binary character - all or nothing - has to be nuanced. But having the Arab countries reacting in a positive way, with concrete actions, to every step will contribute immensely to success. "The next ingredient for success is a real mediation. The parameters are defined. The mediator has to set the timetable too. If the parties are not able to stick to it, then a solution backed by the international community should will be put on the table. "After a fixed deadline, a UN Security Council resolution should proclaim the adoption of the two-state solution. This should include all the parameters of borders, refugees, Jerusalem and security arrangements. It would accept the Palestinian state as a full member of the UN, and set a calendar for implementation. It would mandate the resolution of other remaining territorial disputes and legitimise the end of claims. "International monitoring will then be crucial. As will be guarantees and contributions offered by the international parties regarding security, economic aid and refugees. We all will have to make deposits to that end. Arab states would immediately establish full diplomatic relations with Israel. "I strongly believe the time has come to, finally, bring this conflict to an end. The international consensus is there. But time is of the essence. The second half of this year is crucial if we want to offer a real choice to the Palestinian people when they vote in January 2010. Something radically different from a choice between violence and desperation." In response to Mr Solana's proposal, Israel's foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said: "A peace agreement can come only following direct negotiations and cannot be imposed." He added: "With all due respect to Solana, he's about to retire ... and we should not overstate the importance of his statement." Agence France Presse reported: "A spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said UN recognition would be 'one option if Israel derails the efforts of US President Barack Obama's administration and its vision of a two-state solution.' " 'Europe, as a member of the international Quartet, must continue in its efforts to apply pressure to Israel to freeze the settlements and stop wasting time,' Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP. "But the Israeli foreign ministry blasted Solana's call, which would effectively impose a solution to the decades-old Middle East conflict. " 'Any approach that calls for an artificial deadline undermines the prospects of actually reaching a bilateral agreement,' it said in a statement." An editorial in Khaleej Times Online said: "It's late, but never too late. Whatever Israel has to say or do, the remarks of European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana resonate in the hearts and minds of not only dispossessed Palestinians, but all the freedom loving people of the world. "Solana's insistence on helping the Palestinians achieve a sovereign country of their own is highly appreciated. Perhaps, at least he has realised that Tel Aviv is hell bent upon buying time by delaying substantive and meaningful negotiations, and hoodwinking the world public opinion by making unrealistic demands. Thus, the latest insistence on the part of Israel to compel Palestinians to recognise the Jewish state is nothing but a ploy at work." An editorial in the Jordan Times said: "At a time when the two peoples cannot seem to agree on fundamental issues dividing them, let alone finer details, it is a matter of absolute rationality to accept the arbitration of the international organisation, which can step in and impose a solution envisaging the creation of a sovereign, independent Palestinian state that would be accepted as a full- fledged member of the UN. "Israel would no doubt be quick to reject this international intervention, having snubbed every international resolution on the Palestinian case ever since the UN partition plan in 1947. Yet eventually it would have to comply - or be made to - with the will of the international community, especially when it comes from the highest authority mandated with solving world problems." Meanwhile, in Washington the US president Barack Obama invited American Jewish leaders to meet at the White House on Monday where he responded to concerns that he has been too tough on Israel and too soft on Iran. The New York Times afterwards spoke to one of the attendees, Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of J Street, a political action committee in Washington. "Mr Ben-Ami said in an interview that the president 'did a masterful job of pushing while hugging.' Mr Obama spoke of a 'rock-solid strategic alliance with Israel,' he said, but also strongly defended his call for Israel to stop building Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories. He said Mr Obama argued that he is the right man, at the right time, to press for a lasting Middle East peace agreement. " 'He was very humble about it, not bragging, not talking himself up, but just being clear that there's a set of assets that he brings,' Mr Ben-Ami said. 'That somebody with his ability to speak to the Muslim world, the political capital that he brings internationally as well as domestically - that isn't going to come around all that often, and we have a narrow window before time runs out. He was very clear that this is a moment that has to be seized and he intends to seize it.' "The White House session was attended by 16 Jewish leaders from 14 organisations, as well as a string of high-profile administration officials, including the chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who has strong ties to the Jewish community, as well as Mr Obama's two senior advisers, David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett. Mr Obama won the support of three-quarters of Jewish voters during last year's election, but he is facing increasing criticism in the Jewish and Israeli press, reflecting the nervousness that some Jewish leaders feel about his policies." Finally, Reuters reported: "Palestinians reject any deal between Israel and the United States that would allow even limited Jewish settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, a top Palestinian negotiator said on Sunday. " 'There are no middle-ground solutions for the settlement issue: either settlement activity stops or it doesn't stop,' Saeb Erekat told Voice of Palestine radio. "Erekat said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas expressed that message in a letter on Saturday to US President Barack Obama. "Erekat was responding to reports that Israel and the United States were discussing a compromise that would allow some building in existing settlements under what Israel terms 'natural growth' to accommodate expanding families. "A US official denied on Wednesday a report in the Israeli daily Maariv that the Obama administration agreed work could continue on 2,500 housing units whose construction had begun, despite its call for a total freeze to spur peace efforts."

pwoodward@thenational.ae

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