US warns Palestinians over Security Council resolution

Palestinian envoys seek a resolution condemning Israeli settlement building.

New York: Palestinian envoys on Wednesday stepped up lobbying for a Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement building but the United States spoke out strongly against the initiative.

The United States warned at the United Nations that putting the resolution to a Security Council vote would "complicate" peace efforts. It has still not said though whether it would veto the measure.

The Palestinian resolution against Israel`s building in the occupied territories and East Jerusalem was formally put to the 15-member council on Tuesday night with Lebanon, Brazil and South Africa as the council sponsors.

Palestinian Ambassador to the UN, Ryad Mansour, said the resolution would help revive direct talks. Palestinians have refused to take part in talks since Israel ended a moratorium on settlements at the end of September.

"There are a lot of political activities in all corners of the globe, in all capitals," Mansour told reporters. "Our objective is to remove this obstacle from the process of negotiations."

"We are working very hard with all Security Council members, including the United States of America, to succeed in having the council adopt this draft resolution," he said. "That would send a very powerful message to the occupying power, to Israel, to listen."

No vote is expected for several days, possibly weeks. And the United States warned the Palestinians against pressing for a vote.

"We believe that continued settlement expansion is corrosive, not only to peace efforts and the two state solution but to Israel`s future itself," US deputy ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo told a Security Council meeting on the Middle East.

"As we have consistently said, permanent status issues can be resolved only through negotiations between the parties and not by recourse to the Security Council.”

"We therefore consistently oppose attempts to take these issues to this council and will continue to do so as such action moves us no closer to the goal of a negotiated final settlement."

DiCarlo said a council resolution "would only complicate efforts to achieve that goal”.

US officials are still refusing to say whether the United States would use its traditional veto of resolutions against Israel.

"I`m not going to speculate on what happens from this point forward," US State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said on Tuesday when asked about a possible US veto. US officials at the United Nations added nothing to that.

The United States is alone among the five permanent veto-wielding members of the Security Council in opposing the resolution.

The other four -- Britain, China, France and Russia -- have all indicated they would probably vote for the resolution, diplomats said.

The diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East -- the United States, Russia, United Nations and European Union -- are to meet in Munich on February 05. Some diplomats said the fate of the resolution may only be decided after that.

The resolution is one prong of a new diplomatic offensive by the Palestinian Authority. It has now secured recognition from 107 countries and Mansour said he was confident that two thirds of the 192 UN members would "shortly" be signed up.

No Israeli diplomats were at Wednesday`s Security Council debate because of a strike by Israeli Foreign Ministry staff.

Bureau Report