Hillary talks to Abbas over Palestinian UN bid
Washington: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke on Tuesday with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas ahead of a showdown over the Palestinians' controversial bid for UN membership, the State Department said.
The Palestinians are expected to make their bid later this month before the United Nations General Assembly -- a move Washington opposes. The US is seeking to set up a new round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Hillary urged Abbas "to work hard with us to avoid a negative scenario in New York at the end of the month”, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
Abbas will on Wednesday meet with US Middle East envoy David Hale, and Hillary called on the Palestinian leadership to "hear him with open ears" as Washington hopes to avert a potentially rancorous UN meeting.
White House spokesman Jay Carney meanwhile said the Palestinian effort was "not productive or helpful”, telling reporters that peace needed to be "negotiated directly by both parties”.
Making the UN membership bid without a peace plan in place would "not bring the Palestinians any closer to statehood”, he said.
Washington is said to be seeking to draft a proposal for peace talks that will be acceptable to Israel, as well as Russia, the European Union and the UN -- the other members of the international peacemaking Quartet.
"We are going to continue to work right up until the UN General Assembly, if necessary, to get these parties back to the table, and we'll continue to work afterwards," Nuland said of US efforts.
US diplomatic efforts are focused on including a number of countries in the region to help deter the Palestinians' move toward seeking unilateral statehood.
"We have been talking in diplomatic channels... to a much broader section of countries than we usually talk to about Middle East peace, because many of them who don't usually get confronted with decisions like this could be confronted with a decision in the General Assembly," she said.
Direct talks between Israel and Palestinians came to a halt shortly after they were re-launched in Washington last September over the issue of settlement construction.
The Palestinians refuse to resume talks while Israel builds in annexed Arab east Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied West Bank.