Polish FM: EU seeks joint position on Palestinians

June 29, 2011 - 10:44 AM

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The European Union is working to forge a common position to take if the U.N. is asked this fall to recognize a Palestinian state, despite disagreements on the issue, Poland's foreign minister said Wednesday.

Palestinian officials are expected to request recognition as an independent state at the meeting of the U.N. General Assembly in September. Any common European stance would depend on a possible resolution's final wording, Radek Sikorski said.

The 27 EU countries have agreed to refrain from revealing their individual positions while a consensus is sought, he said. France has said it will support Palestinian statehood if negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians do not restart by September. But countries like Germany or Italy are likely to oppose any such resolution.

"But the agreed EU position, just as much as national positions, will depend on what the resolution says and we don't know that yet," Sikorski said. Poland will hold the rotating presidency of the EU for the next six months.

Palestinian officials are trying to raise support around the world for their initiative, arguing that the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not serious about making peace.

Europe's position could prove critical: Without its support, a resolution could more easily be dismissed as a result of automatic anti-Israel majority in the General Assembly. But a pro-Palestinian groundswell by major European nations with deep ties to Israel, such as Britain and France, could make the event a watershed and provide a tail wind to talk of boycotts and mass protests against Israel.

An EU official in Brussels said it was too early to say whether a common position could be forged.

"We don't know what the resolution will say, so we can't speculate at this point," the official said, on condition of anonymity due to EU regulations.

It will be up to each country to decide how to vote on any U.N. resolution, she said. But she added, "The ambition is to keep working together."

The EU believes a resolution would do nothing to resolve the issues between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and the only real solution is a negotiated settlement, the official said.

Daniel Schwammenthal, director of the American Jewish Committee's Transatlantic Institute, said the European are worried about being divided if there's a vote in the General Assembly.

"The focus for the Americans, for the EU, is to avoid such a resolution," Schwammenthal said.

"It will not change the reality on the ground," he said. "The Israelis will not simply pack up and leave."

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Don Melvin reported from Brussels.