November 8, 2010

US denies support for UN Palestinian statehood bid

Ma'an - WASHINGTON – A US State Department official denied a host of rumors on the progress of the peace process Friday, including reports that Washington would back a bid for a Palestinian state presented to the UN Security Council.

Mark Toner, deputy State Department spokesman, told reporters at a daily news conference in Washington that "anything that might affect getting those – getting both parties back into direct negotiations, we would discourage frankly," referring to questions about the potential US support for the move.

As talks stalled in late September, reports in the Israeli press suggested that US mediators had promised to block action for a Palestinian state at the Security Council as part of a package of guarantees in exchange for a promise to halt Israeli settlement construction on occupied Palestinian lands.

No deal was made, however, and talks stalled as Americans went to the polls for the midterm elections, the results of which were interpreted as a blow to the administration of President Barack Obama, with many questioning what the Republican shift in the House of Representatives would mean for the peace process.

Toner made clear in his statements to the press on Friday, however, that Mideast peace was still a priority for the administration, citing upcoming meetings with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, scheduled to be in the United States at the same time as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The official would not confirm reports from Chief PLO Negotiator Saeb Erekat, who said Thursday that mediator George Mitchell had asked for two weeks to try to convince Israel to freeze settlements.


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