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Diplomats Try To Defuse Confrontation Over Palestinian UN Bid

Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas gestures before the start of a meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at UN headquarters in New York on September 19.
Diplomats have been meeting in New York in a bid to avert an international confrontation over a Palestinian bid for membership of the United Nations.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said U.S. diplomats were engaged in "extremely intensive" diplomacy with Israel, the Palestinians, and representatives of other governments who have come to New York City for the annual UN General Assembly meeting.

Officials said Clinton met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on September 19 to discuss a possible statement on the situation that could be issued by the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators -- the European Union, Russia, the United Nations, and the United States.

Palestinian National Authority President Mahmud Abbas is reportedly ready to submit a formal request on September 23 for Palestinian membership of the UN. Palestinians say they hope such a move will help them gain international standing and pressure Israel into making peacemaking concessions.

The potential Palestinian move is opposed by Israel and allies including the United States, who say that only direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations can clear the way for the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. The United States has threatened to veto any Palestinian bid for UN statehood recognition in the UN Security Council.

"We are engaged in extremely intensive ongoing diplomacy, reaching out to not only the parties [Israel and Palestinians] but to all of the people who are here for the UN General Assembly," Clinton told reporters in New York. "And we continue to believe and are pressing the point that the only way to a two-state solution -- which is what we support and want to see happen -- is through negotiations."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on September 19 said he was ready to meet with the Palestinian leader during this week's UN meeting in New York to relaunch "direct" peace negotiations.

However, the Israeli statement made no mention of the issues that have led to the stalemate in peacemaking moves.

U.S.-backed talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed nearly one year ago when the Palestinians withdrew from the negotiations after Israel did not extend a partial moratorium on Jewish settlement building in the West Bank.

compiled from agency reports