Spinning the PA's talks with EU Ministers

August 26, 2011
Sarah Benton

PA to soften UN statehood bid?
Palestinians in talks with European Union to revise formula of proposed General Assembly resolution by seeking to upgrade to PLO’s status within UN, instead of declaration of state, sources say
Attila Somfalvi

Israel News

The Palestinian Authority has spent the past few days trying to advance a move to soften its bid for recognition at the UN in order to gain wider support among European nations, Ynet has learned. Europe’s major powers have yet to decide whether to support the Palestinians’ membership bid, to which the US is opposed.

Palestinian sources close to negotiations with Europe told Ynet that the PA is conducting secret talks with the European Union and the Arab League aimed at revising their proposed resolution ahead of the General Assembly meeting in September.

According to the proposed version, the PLO’s status within UN institutes will be significantly upgraded but without an official declaration of independence. Also, the revised proposal will leave room for the resumption of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
A Palestinian official confirmed that the PA fears that major European powers will not endorse the UN bid and has therefore decided to try to revise the proposal.

He stressed that one way or another the PA will turn to the UN but that it remains to be decided whether the Palestinians will seek full recognition for a state or an upgrade to the status of the PLO.

The source estimated that a final decision will be made after EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton visits Ramallah and meets with President Mahmoud Abbas on August 27. An Arab League meeting next week may also influence the PA’s decision.

Meanwhile, Israeli sources maintaining close ties with the Palestinians said that the PA fears a declaration of independence but is having a hard time withdrawing its bid.
“They’re looking for a new formula to prevent a situation where Netanyahu obtains the ‘moral majority’ he’s talking about,” they said.

While any Palestinian bid for recognition is slated to easily gain approval at the General Assembly, which is dominated by Third World countries and Muslim states, Israel still hopes to obtain a “moral majority” of major European powers, thereby diminishing the weight of the vote.

Ramallah and Jerusalem are both fighting for the German, French and British votes in particular. Germany has already announced it will oppose recognition of a Palestinian state, whereas France and Britain have yet to clarify their stances.

Israeli state officials recently estimated that Britain will ultimately align itself with the US, which has called on the Palestinians to avoid unilateral steps.

Quartet envoy to the Middle East Tony Blair has spent the last few days trying to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians but any resumption of negotiations prior to September appears unlikely. Israel does not believe the Palestinians are ready to resume talks before the General Assembly convenes next month.

Palestinian sources stated that an official decision to change the form of the proposal has yet to be made but noted that intense efforts are being held. Ynet also learned that senior Israeli officials are looking into the option of forcing the PA to withdraw its bid for recognition at the International Court of Justice. Such recognition will allow the Palestinians to file lawsuits against Israel.
Meanwhile, Abbas is trying to distance himself from reconciliation talks with Hamas. “Now, with all efforts focused on September, we want all voices to be with us,” a senior Fatah official told AP. “We are not giving the Americans or anyone else a reason to shun us because of the reconciliation or anything else.”

“If we form a government with Hamas that Hamas wants, the US and Israel will get the pretext they need to create troubles for us before September, and that would affect our efforts to gain the recognition we want at the UN,” said Ameen Maqbool, a member of the Fatah delegation to negotiations with Hamas.

AP and Elior Levy contributed to this report

Spanish envoy: Madrid still undecided on UN vote

Foreign Ministry says that Spanish FM’s signaled support for Palestinian Authority at UN surprising considering good Israel-Spain ties.
By Herb Keinon

The Foreign Ministry summoned Spanish Ambassador Alvar Iranzo to a meeting in Jerusalem Monday to protest statements Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez made indicating Spain backed Palestinian moves for statehood recognition at the UN in September.

During the meeting, the ministry’s deputy director general for Europe, Naor Gilon, expressed Israel’s “surprise and disappointment” at the remarks attributed to Jimenez in an interview Sunday with the El Pais newspaper, especially considering the “excellent bilateral relations between the two countries.”

The summoning of the Spanish foreign minister was followed by a similar protest three weeks ago made to the ambassador from Honduras when the Honduran president said his country would vote for the Palestinians at the UN.

In the El Pais interview, Jimenez was quoted as saying “There’s the feeling that now is the time to do something, to give the Palestinians the hope that a state could become reality.”

Speaking prior to the monthly meeting of EU foreign ministers on September 2, which is expected to deal with the EU’s position on this matter, Jimenez said, “We have to give them some signal, because if we don’t it could generate great frustration for the Palestinian people.”

According to Foreign Ministry officials, Iranzo said his foreign minister’s words were misrepresented, and said Spain had not yet decided how it would vote in September.

Iranzo said the vote will depend on consultations between the EU member states and the substance of the resolution the Palestinians ultimately put forward.

During the meeting with Gilon, Iranzo, according to Israeli officials, said from the Spanish perspective, any resolution needed to be balanced and include the need to renew negotiations between the sides and a consideration for Israel’s security interests.

Without those parameters, he said, Spain could not support the resolution.

Iranzo said Jimenez’s intent was to express support for the idea of Palestinian statehood, alongside Israel, but not predetermine the vote in September, Foreign Ministry officials said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon is scheduled to go to Madrid later this week and hold discussions on the matter with senior Spanish officials.


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