Last Updated: Thu Jan 20, 2011 13:52 pm (KSA) 10:52 am (GMT)

UN gets draft on Israel settlements; US veto looms

An Israeli army bulldozer destroys a Palestinian house in a east Jerusalem
An Israeli army bulldozer destroys a Palestinian house in a east Jerusalem

Arab nations have submitted a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but a vote is not expected any time soon because of a likely U.S. veto, diplomats said on Wednesday.

The point of the resolution, diplomats say, is to highlight Washington's isolated position on the Security Council, show the Palestinian population that the Palestinian Authority is taking action, and to pressure Israel and the United States on the settlement issue.

Council diplomats told Reuters privately that the 15-nation panel was unlikely to take any action on the draft resolution in the near future -- if at all -- because of the veto.

 We are still in need of time to convince the Americans to vote in favor of the resolution or to abstain 
Palestinian FM Riyad al-Malki

It has nearly 120 co-sponsors, exclusively Arab and other non-aligned nations. U.N. diplomats said that the draft would probably receive 14 votes in favor and the one veto if put to an immediate vote.

The draft uses language that the so-called Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators -- the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations -- have used in previous statements on settlements.

It says that "Israeli settlements established in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace."

Diplomats said Washington had attempted to persuade the Palestinian Authority not to go ahead with the resolution because the administration of President Barack Obama would find it awkward to veto a resolution that it generally agreed with.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki told Palestinian radio on Wednesday that he has not given up hope that the United States can be brought on board.

"We are still in need of time to convince the Americans to vote in favor of the resolution or to abstain," he said. "Therefore the expectations of the Arab foreign ministers is that this draft resolution will not be voted on before the Quartet meeting at the ministerial level."

Consistent opposition

 We therefore consistently oppose attempts to bring these issues to this council, and we will continue to do so because such action moves us no closer to the goal of negotiated final settlement 
U.S. Deputy Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo

The chief Palestinian U.N. delegate, Riyad Mansour, told a Security Council meeting on the Middle East the draft resolution was "a constructive, collective effort to address this burning issue and chart the way forward."

The earliest date the resolution could be put to a vote, diplomats said, is after the annual security conference in Munich, Germany, where Quartet members plan to meet on Feb. 5 and hope to issue a statement touching on settlements.

Diplomats said the United States wanted the Palestinians to accept that statement instead of a Security Council resolution that Washington's ally Israel would fiercely oppose.

U.S. Deputy Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo said that "continued settlement expansion is corrosive." However, she made clear that Washington's position on the settlements issue -- that it should be resolved in direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians -- had not changed.

"We therefore consistently oppose attempts to bring these issues to this council, and we will continue to do so because such action moves us no closer to the goal of negotiated final settlement," DiCarlo told the council. "Rather, we believe it would only complicate efforts to achieve that goal."

But some European U.S. allies believe a resolution could be useful if the Palestinians then resumed peace talks. Restating condemnation of settlements "could be something instrumental in not keeping the settlement issue at the center," Portuguese Ambassador Jose Filipe Moraes Cabral told reporters.

Intensive U.S. diplomatic efforts to revive direct peace talks between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu collapsed last year after Israel refused to extend a 10-month partial settlement freeze.

Israel has repeatedly called for a resumption of direct negotiations with the Palestinians. But the Palestinians have refused to return to the negotiating table until Israel first agrees to halt settlement work.

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