`Quartet trying to dissuade Palestinians UN bid`

In a televised address on Friday, Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas vowed to lodge a bid for UN membership this week.

Washington: Tony Blair, the special envoy representing the diplomatic quartet seeking Middle East peace, said on Sunday that efforts were under way to dissuade the Palestinians from seeking recognition this week at the United Nations.

"What we will be looking for over the next few days is a way of putting together something that allows their claims and legitimate aspirations for statehood to be recognised, whilst actually renewing the only thing that`s going to produce a state -- which is a negotiation directly between the two sides," Blair told ABC television.

"I think it is possible to bridge the gaps and produce such a document and if we can do that then in a sense whatever happens with the United Nations happens in a less confrontational atmosphere, and could even happen in a way that helps the process of negotiations and statehood," said Blair, a former prime minister of Great Britain.

"Let`s see if we can craft something that allows the Palestinians to come to the United Nations, to advance their aspirations for statehood that also at the same time allows us to develop a framework for negotiations so that they get back to talking," he told the "This Week" news program.

In a televised address from his Ramallah headquarters on Friday, Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas vowed to lodge a bid for UN membership before the Security Council this week, despite strong opposition from the United States and other key Mideast peace process players.

However, one Quartet member, Russia said last week that it would give its backing to the Palestinian bid.

The other members of the Quartet are the United Nations, the United States and the European Union.

Washington made no direct criticism of Russia`s announcement but suggested that as a member of the Quartet, Moscow should make further efforts to get direct peace talks back on track.

Blair said on Sunday that the Quartet is trying to talk the Palestinians out of the move, as "a way of avoiding a confrontation, a showdown. This week is all about advancing Palestinian statehood”, he said.

He added that any such deal with the Palestinians would essentially be "framework of reference for the negotiations... (and) some sense of a timeframe -- a timeline if you like -- for successful negotiations."

The Palestinians are planning at a meeting of the UN General Assembly this week to seek recognition of their state within the 1967 lines that preceded the Six-Day War, over the opposition of both Israel and the United States.

Peace talks ground to a halt in September 2010 when Israel failed to renew a partial freeze on settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.

Since then, the Palestinians have refused to return to talks as long as Israel builds on occupied territory.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas has vowed to pursue the unilateral bid for recognition barring any prospects of a renewal of negotiations with Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called the 1967 borders "indefensible”, insisting there would not be a peace agreement without the Palestinians first recognising Israel as the "Jewish state" and thus as the homeland of the Jewish people alone.

Bureau Report