BRUSSELS (Reuters) -- Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said EU foreign ministers would discuss support for the Palestinians at a meeting today but that it was premature to discuss recognizing a Palestinian state.
"I don't think we are there yet," he told reporters when asked if the European Union could recognize an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which Palestinian leaders have said they are prepared to declare.
"I would hope we would be in a position to recognize a Palestinian state but there has to be one first. So I think that is a bit premature.... We would be ready to recognize a Palestinian state but conditions are not there as of yet."
Palestinian officials said on November 15 that they planned to go the UN Security Council in an effort to secure international support for an independent state, a move attributed to frustration at the lack of progress on peace talks.
Israel threatened to take countermeasures possibly including annexation of more of the occupied West Bank if the Palestinians declared a state without reaching a peace accord.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who has repeatedly pressed for renewed talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, said it was too early to discuss Palestinian statehood.
"That has to be done with time and calm and at an appropriate moment," he told reporters in Brussels. "I don't think today is the moment to talk about that."
‘Dead On Arrival’?
Bildt, who is chairing the foreign ministers' meeting as Sweden holds the rotating EU Presidency, said ministers would instead discuss ways of showing support for the Palestinians.
"We will have a brief discussion on the Middle East situation here this morning to see how we can go forward in a rather difficult situation where there is a need to look into all the initiatives that may be possible," he said.
Asked whether he believed the Palestinian move was an act of desperation after a year of stalled peace talks, he urged calm.
"I wouldn't call it desperation. But it is clearly an act born from a very difficult situation where they don't see any road ahead. I can understand that."
A senior EU diplomat said the Palestinians had talked to the EU in Jerusalem and met heads of mission, but made no formal request for recognition.
"They are putting forward ideas but I can't say they've asked formally for support. There is no formal request, and it is not an official agenda point for Tuesday's meeting of foreign ministers. They are smelling the air."
In a statement on Monday, chief negotiator Saeb Erekat confirmed that the Palestinians would seek a resolution "recognizing an independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital," but U.S. officials visiting the Middle East dismissed the idea.
"It would be D.O.A. -- dead on arrival," said Democratic Party Senator Ted Kaufman. "It's a waste of time."
State Department spokesman Ian Kelly would not say if the United States would veto any such Palestinian declaration.
"I can't say we're going to veto something we haven't seen or hasn't even been proposed yet," he said. "We support a Palestinian state that arises as a result of a process between the two parties."