Palestinians nix US bid to avoid UN settlement vote

The UNSC will debate a resolution condemning Jewish settlements on Friday.

Ramallah: The Palestinians have refused a compromise offered by Washington to withdraw a UN resolution condemning Jewish settlements, Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said on Thursday.

The draft resolution, to be debated by the UN Security Council on Friday, contains a condemnation of Jewish settlement building on occupied Palestinian land and calls for it to be stopped.

The United States, which regularly uses its Security Council veto power to stop anti-Israeli initiatives, has pledged to oppose the resolution, and instead proposed a non-binding statement condemning settlement activity.

"The US administration, through its UN ambassador (Susan Rice), made a proposal to the Palestinian ambassador and the Arab group in order to dissuade us from asking the Security Council to condemn and demand a halt to Israeli settlement in the Palestinian territories, particularly in east Jerusalem," Maliki said, saying they turned down the offer.

"Instead of a vote on the draft resolution, the Security Council would issue a non-binding statement firmly rejecting settlement activity and criticising Israel`s positions, particularly its failure to apply the roadmap," he said, referring the 2003 peace plan published by the Middle East Quartet.

The proposed statement would also lay out the Security Council`s readiness to send UN envoys "to examine close up the realities on the ground”, he added.

But Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas vowed on Thursday that they would press ahead with the resolution, which was filed last month by representatives of Arab countries.

"We are going to the Security Council so that it adopts a resolution demanding that Israel stop settlement activity," he said on Thursday at a joint press conference with East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta.

"We hoped that the Quartet would public a balanced declaration speaking about the 1967 borders and about security, but that didn`t happen, so we have asked the Security Council to call on Israel to stop its settlement activity, a demand which has been made many times by the US administration," he said.

Later, Abbas` spokesman said the Palestinian leader and US President Barack Obama discussed the matter by telephone for nearly an hour on Thursday.

"During the conversation, they reviewed developments in Egypt and in Tunisia and in the region, as well as the question of taking settlement activities before the UN Security Council," Nabil Abu Rudeina said in Ramallah.

Several ideas were raised during the conversation and the two agreed to continue consultations, Abu Rudeina said, without elaborating.

The draft resolution condemns Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in line with the policy of the international community, including the United States -- but Washington is opposed to such a tack.

"Our focus is on doing what is best to advance negotiations between the parties that will lead to a two-state solution," US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters in Washington on Thursday.

"And we have consistently -- over many years -- said that the United Nations Security Council, and resolutions that would come before the Security Council, are not the right vehicle to advance that goal," she said.

World powers are exploring ways to get Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table after talks broke down in late 2010 in a dispute over Jewish settlement construction.

The Palestinians -- who have non-voting observer status at the United Nations -- are refusing to resume negotiations while Israel builds on land they want for their future state, but efforts to convince Israel to impose a new ban have failed.

Bureau Report