The United States and Europe raced yesterday to avert or delay a looming United Nations showdown over Palestinian statehood that could crush already dim Mideast peace prospects, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the European Union's top diplomat meeting in an attempt to come up with a winning strategy.
Clinton and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton discussed the situation as part of an increasingly desperate effort to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to negotiations without antagonizing either side or embroiling the region in new turmoil.
But with each side locked in intractable positions over the expected Palestinian bid this week for UN recognition, chances for a breakthrough seemed slim. Officials said the effort may be more about damage control than diplomacy.
"We are meeting to talk about the way forward," Clinton said as she shook hands with Ashton in a Manhattan hotel. She declined to say whether mediators were making progress.
The Palestinians are frustrated by their inability to win from Israel concessions such as a freeze on settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. They want to seize the moment to try to gain greater standing and attention with a high-stakes wager on statehood and UN membership. The United States and Israel vehemently opposed the move.
Only 12 months ago, President Barack Obama said he wanted the UN to be welcoming Palestine as its newest member this year. But talks long have broken down, and the United States is in the unenviable position of leading the opposition to something it actually supports. The U.S. promise to veto the Palestinian bid at the Security Council, has led to fears the action could spark violence in the region.