EU withholding position on Palestinian UN move: Hague

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British Foreign Minister William Hague said the European Union was withholding its position on a looming Palestinian bid for UN membership in a bid to force a return to peace talks with Israel.

Ahead of talks with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas in New York on Tuesday, Hague said the 27 EU nations were staying silent on how they would vote on Friday "in order to exert as much pressure on both sides to return to negotiations."

"Important meeting with Palestinian President Abbas today: will discuss how to restart peace talks & building Palestinian institutions," Hague said in a Twitter posting from New York on Tuesday.

Abbas has said he is determined to go ahead with the controversial move to force a vote on membership for a Palestinian state at the UN General Assembly this week despite mounting international pressure.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy will meet with Abbas on Tuesday, while other European Union foreign ministers are also to try to break the impasse.

Hague said in a statement that the "best outcome" was a return to peace talks, adding that seeking full Palestinian membership at the UN Security Council "will just lead to confrontation" and would be vetoed by the United States.

"We along with all the other 26 countries of the European Union have withheld our position on how we would vote on any resolution that may come forward in the General Assembly in order to exert as much pressure on both sides to return to negotiations. That is the only real way forward," he said in the statement late Monday.

"What we want to see is negotiations that bring about a Palestinian state, the so-called two-state solution of Israel being able to live in peace and security but a viable Palestinian state alongside it."

During the talks with Abbas "all the pressure we're exerting will be in that direction of returning to negotiations to find a two-state solution to allow a Palestinian state truly to come into being."

Hague, a Conservative, said he would also discuss the matter with Britain's former Labour prime minister Tony Blair, who is now the special envoy of the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East.

© 2011 AFP

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