LONDON: Top US diplomat John Kerry meets chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat Tuesday hoping to avert a diplomatic crisis over a UN bid to force Israel to withdraw from Palestinian land.
The American secretary of state will seek to persuade the Palestinians not to rush ahead with a draft UN resolution seeking to set a two-year timetable for an end to the Israeli occupation.
Kerry has spent the past two days jetting across Europe meeting his counterparts as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to gauge support for the Palestinian effort at the UN Security Council.
Netanyahu warned late Monday that European backing for the Palestinians could harm his country.
“I said that the attempts of the Palestinians and of several European countries to force conditions on Israel will only lead to a deterioration in the regional situation and will endanger Israel,” he said in a statement.
“Therefore, we will strongly oppose this.”
His comments followed almost three hours of talks in Rome with Kerry.
The two men “had a long and thorough discussion about Israel’s security and developments at the United Nations,” a State Department official said.
Kerry arrived late Monday in London having paused en route from Rome for less than two hours in Paris to meet with European counterparts.
The Palestinians have said they will submit an Arab-backed draft text to the UN as early as Wednesday.
France is putting together a more nuanced version setting a two-year timetable for concluding a peace treaty, without mentioning the withdrawal of Israeli forces.
Kerry held late-night dinner talks with the foreign ministers of France, Britain and Germany inside Orly airport in Paris seeking clarification on the French-led resolution bid.
Traditionally the US has used its power of veto at the UN Security Council to shoot down what it sees as moves against its close regional ally, Israel.
US officials told reporters accompanying Kerry that Washington has not yet decided whether to veto or back the French-led UN initiative.
“There are certain things we would never support,” said a State Department official, without elaborating.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told AFP they were looking for “a resolution which everyone can get behind”.
“Even if the Palestinians have a text in their hand, the Americans have already said that they will veto it.”
Netanyahu earlier said: “We will not accept attempts to dictate to us unilateral moves on a limited timetable.”
Jordan, which the Palestinians said would submit their resolution, maintained it had no immediate plans to push for an early UN vote.
Jordanian Ambassador Dina Kawar to the UN said: “Secretary Kerry is having meetings in Europe with a number of ministers so we are waiting to see what happens.”
There is a growing impatience in Europe over the failure to make progress in peace talks, amid fears the Middle East risks spiralling into even greater chaos.
Several European parliaments have called on their governments to move ahead with the recognition of a Palestinian state.
The US administration opposes moves to bind negotiators’ hands through a UN resolution — particularly any attempt to set a deadline for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank.
But a US veto risks running contrary to Washington’s avowed aim of a Palestinian state and would anger key Arab allies — many of whom are much-needed partners in the US-led coalition against Islamic State militants.
“We will stand firm in the face of any diktat,” the Israeli leader said ahead of Monday’s talks.
Kerry will also meet Tuesday with the secretary general of the Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi.
Diplomatic sources say Paris is hoping to persuade the divided Palestinians to back their compromise resolution, rather than risk a US veto of the more muscular Arab version.