EU chief: UN bid 'for Palestinians to decide'

European Union foreign policy chief won't say how member states will vote on statehood resolution next month.

    Ashton met with a number of Israeli and Palestinian officials, including Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas [EPA]

    Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief, finished a visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories on Monday without commiting the EU to a position on the Palestinian Authority's expected bid for statehood at the United Nations.

    Ashton spent two days meeting with Israeli and Palestinian officials, including Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister.

    Israeli politicians used her visit as an opportunity to criticise the planned vote. Defence minister Ehud Barak called it "unfortunate and unproductive"; Netanyahu said it was "a violation of commitments by the Palestinians."

    Ashton said little about the measure during her time in Jerusalem and Ramallah, and again on Monday afternoon, during a press conference in neighbouring Amman.

    "It is for the Palestinians to decide themselves the approach they want to take at the UN," Ashton said at the press conference with Nasser Judeh, the Jordanian foreign minister.

    No decision until next month

    The PA plans to ask the UN for recognition, though it has not yet decided whether to pursue full recognition or "non-member observer state" status, which would put it on a par with the Vatican.

    The latter requires only a two-thirds vote in the General Assembly, while full recognition also needs approval at the Security Council, where the United States has promised to veto the measure.

    The PA has not yet drafted a final resolution requesting recognition; Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas plans to submit it at the General Assembly next month.

    Several EU member states, including France and the United Kingdom, have said they will wait to see the final resolution before deciding their vote. Four EU members - Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic - have already said that they plan to vote against the measure.

    Ashton hinted, though, that the EU could endorse the measure.

    "I would hope to see something that the European Union is able to support," Ashton said on Monday.

    In a meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Ashton said the revolutions sweeping the Arab world offered "a real opportunity" to restart talks between Israel and the PA.

    Those negotiations have been stalled for nearly a year. They collapsed last September over Israel's refusal to halt the construction of new settlements in the occupied West Bank.

    Abbas has said he would suspend the bid and resume negotiations if Israel agrees to stop settlement growth and to accept the 1967 borders as a basis for talks.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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