John Kerry Attempts to Head Off UN Showdown Over Palestinian Statehood

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US Secretary of State John Kerry conveyed his condolences Friday to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the death of senior Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein, who died Wednesday following clashes with IDF troops in the West Bank.

The incident has triggered protests and clashes in the West Bank, as the Palestinian leadership has blamed Israel for “killing” the 55-year-old official. Pathologists disagree on the main cause of his death, with Palestinian doctors saying the 55-year-old official died from a blow to the body and Israeli doctors saying he had a heart attack.

Kerry and Abbas spoke by phone, during a visit by the secretary of state to Colombia, and discussed Israel, the West Bank and Jerusalem. Kerry is set to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Rome on Monday and later with European officials.

Kerry told reporters Friday that he hoped to head off an end-of-year showdown at the United Nations over Palestinian statehood in meetings next week in Europe.

“There are a lot of different folks pushing in different directions out there, and the question is can we all pull in the same direction,” Kerry said.

The Palestinians are carrying out a major campaign aiming to submit to the UN Security Council a draft resolution setting out a two- or three-year timetable for an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines.

They have said they would like to see the text submitted before the end of the year, prompting a surprise meeting between Kerry and Netanyahu.

“What we’re trying to do is figure out what makes sense,” Kerry told reporters in Bogota.

“We’re trying to figure out a way to help defuse the tensions and reduce the potential for more conflict, and we’re exploring various possibilities to that end, which is why I’m also meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu.”

The Palestinians’ UN push comes amid tensions in the region and as a wave of European countries have held parliamentary votes urging their governments to recognize a state of Palestine.

The Portuguese parliament became the latest to press for recognition of Palestinian statehood “in coordination with the European Union,” adding that the government should “choose the moment best suited” for the decision.

France’s upper house voted Thursday to urge its government to recognize Palestine hard on the heels of a similar motion in the Irish parliament on Wednesday.

Lawmakers in Britain and Spain have already passed their own motions and Sweden has gone even further, officially recognizing Palestine as a state, in a move that prompted a furious Israel to recall its ambassador.

Kerry led a nine-month peace bid that collapsed in acrimony in April, and Washington has long opposed what it calls “unilateral” moves to achieve statehood, which it says will only come through a negotiated deal.

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SOURCE: AFP / The Times of Israel

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