UK bids to avert Palestine showdown

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Indy Politics

British diplomatic efforts to avert a showdown over an expected push for Palestinian statehood are set to resume today at the United Nations.

Foreign Secretary William Hague met with President Mahmoud Abbas yesterday as efforts to persuade the Palestinian leader not to force a Security Council vote on state recognition continued.

President Barack Obama has already said he would veto any such resolution before the Security Council.

The US leader is due to meet both Mr Abbas and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu today as part of ongoing diplomatic efforts.

Reports last night suggested that the so-called Middle East quartet - comprising of the UN, EU, US and Russia - are pushing for a compromise through which a Security Council vote over statehood recognition for the Palestinians is put on hold while a fresh round of negotiations take place.

Sources close to the UK negotiating team said late yesterday that finding a solution before Friday's speech by Mr Abbas at the United Nations would be "very difficult".

But they added that "efforts to find a way out of the crisis" were ongoing.

Speaking in New York, Mr Hague said there was "no progress to report on" but that the diplomatic push continued.

Mr Hague said: "Of course we are talking about how we can get back into negotiations, get Israelis and Palestinians back into negotiations.

"That is our objective, it is the objective of all the European Union countries and is supported really by the whole international community."

A Foreign Office spokesman said that during yesterday's meeting between Mr Hague and Mr Abbas, the pair "compared notes on recent developments in the Middle East peace process".

The spokesman added: "The Foreign Secretary assured President Abbas of the United Kingdom's determination to work for an early resumption of talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority."

Back in the UK, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said yesterday there had been "debates" at the top of Government over the UK response to a Palestinian statehood bid.

Amid reports of a split in the coalition over the issue, he added that Britain faced a "difficult judgment".

Mr Clegg told BBC News: "The Palestinian leadership says that they want to go to the United Nations and the judgment the world needs to make is this: given that the Israeli government is very, very hostile to that, that's one factor, but equally, you want to make sure that the inaction, if that's what occurs, of the international community does not isolate moderates in the Palestinian community, without whom there will be no peace agreement at all."

The Labour Party has urged the Government to support a Palestinian proposal if it is indeed forthcoming.

In a letter to Mr Hague, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said: "The case made by the Palestinians for recognition as a state is strong."

Likewise former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell, has said the UK should "unequivocally" support recognition of Palestinian statehood.