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Thursday, September 22, 2011

A final push to avert UN showdown,Set to meet Israeli, Palestinian leaders


President Barack Obama in final push to avert UN showdown
President Barack Obama was to meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders Wednesday as diplomats scrambled to persuade Mahmud Abbas to drop a bid for UN membership of a Palestinian state.
Both the United States and the Europeans appeared to be working to buy more time to avert the looming clash, with Abbas determined to press ahead with plans to submit a formal application to UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Friday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in New York just hours ahead of his talks with Obama, with Israeli officials renewing an offer of talks here with Abbas.
"We believe the Palestinian bid at the UN is a mistake and it will not advance peace nor advance the establishment of a real Palestinian state," Netanyahu's spokesman, Mark Regev, told AFP as the Israeli delegation arrived.
"Unfortunately, the Palestinian drive at the UN could hurt the chances of reaching a negotiated solution between Israeli and the Palestinians.
"We hope the Palestinians change track and prime minister Netanyahu's offer to start this week in New York direct peace talk stands. He is ready to meet with Palestinian President Abbas."
Obama will meet later Wednesday around 6:00pm with Abbas, as the US leads the diplomatic drive to steer the Palestinians off their course.
"The president will be able to say, very directly, why he believes that an action at the United Nations is not a way to achieve a Palestinian state," national security advisor Ben Rhodes said Tuesday.
Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy were also both set to address the opening session of the UN General Assembly, with French sources saying Sarkozy could unveil a breakthrough in the standoff.
Obama has already called for negotiations to resume using the 1967 lines -- encompassing the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip -- as a starting point for the contours of an eventual Palestinian state.
European diplomats and the Middle East Quartet -- comprising the European Union, the United States, the United Nations and Russia -- were all seeking to head off the confrontation.
Sources close to the negotiations who asked to remain anonymous said the focus was on trying to buy time to allow a broader path towards resuming the direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which last collapsed in September 2010.
One possibility was that Ban would not hand over Abbas's letter straight away to the Security Council, a European source told AFP, adding there were other "diplomatic airbags" that could be used to defuse tensions.
Several diplomats said the aim was to find a plan that would satisfy both sides while also avoiding an escalation of violence in the volatile region.
The Palestinians need nine votes out of the 15 Security Council members for their bid for UN statehood to proceed.
If they fail to attract enough support, then the bid will fail without the need for a US veto, which the US administration has threatened to use.
The Middle East Quartet was seeking to draw up a statement that would coax Israel and the Palestinians back to talks, but British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who met Abbas Tuesday, said it had made "no progress."

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