US frowns on Russia backing of Palestinian state
The United States said Monday it expects Russia to keep working with the diplomatic Quartet on bringing Israel and the Palestinians back to talks despite Moscow's move to back a Palestinian state.
The United States made no direct criticism of Russia's announcement but suggested that as a member of the Quartet, Moscow should make further efforts to get direct peace talks back on track.
"We are continuing to work on a Quartet way ahead, as we have been working on for a number of weeks," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, referring to the US, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.
"That is the focus of our efforts with the Russians, and we would hope that the Russians will continue to work with us in that direction in the coming days. And I think our view on this is well known."
Washington has been seeking to avert a move at the UN to recognize a Palestinian state later this month, saying it would heighten tensions while failing to bring the two sides closer to a peace settlement.
But Russia's statement represented a blow to US efforts.
Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, said Moscow would vote in favor of any type of official UN recognition the Palestinians decided to seek.
"We will, of course, be voting for any of the Palestinians' proposals," Churkin said in televised remarks.
"But I must say that we are not pushing them into it. We are saying that 'Whatever you decide to do, we will support you,'" Churkin said.
Nuland said that for Washington, "there is time yet for the Quartet to play a positive role in getting these parties back to the table, and that is the direction that all Quartet parties ought to be pushing at the moment."
Russia has been a strong Palestinian ally since the Cold War era but has more recently made inroads with Israel based on that country's vast ex-Soviet diaspora and growing trade and other commercial ties.
But relations between the two sides hit a snag in January when President Dmitry Medvedev was forced to cancel a trip to Israel because of a local diplomats' strike but proceeded with his plans to go to the West Bank.
Churkin's comments suggested that Russia expected the Palestinians to choose a General Assembly vote that avoided a direct confrontation with the United States.
"This is the biggest difficulty -- the United States is not hiding the fact that it is ready to use its veto," Churkin said.
© 2011 AFP