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Kerry seeks to avert U.N. crisis on Middle East

Palestinians are campaigning to submit a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council before the end of 2014

Published: Updated:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday he hoped to avert tensions over Palestinian statehood during U.N. meetings in Europe next week.

“We’re trying to figure out a way to help defuse the tensions and reduce the potential for more conflict and we’re exploring various possibilities to that end,” Kerry told reporters in Colombia when asked whether there is a resolution the United States could support, according to Reuters.

The Palestinians are fiercely campaigning to submit a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council calling for Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory to do end by November 2016. Jordan has already circulated a proposal to the 15-member council; which some Western diplomats slammed “unbalanced.”

Jordan’s U.N. Ambassador Dina Kawar said she hoped a resolution could be put forward for a vote in December or January.

Kerry will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Rome on Monday and other senior European officials to discuss possible resolutions. The Palestinian resolution is likely to be vetoed by Washington.

“There are a lot of different folks pushing in different directions out there, and the question is can we all pull in the same direction,” Kerry said. “That’s what we’re looking at.”

Some countries believe agreement on a resolution would be easier to achieve before Israeli elections due to be held in March.

“Waiting until April and therefore probably facing a Palestinian draft in the Security Council in January, vetoed by the Americans, will just make the situation worse,” a senior Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

“If there is a window of opportunity for a consensus resolution it might be this month,” the diplomat said.

Kerry met French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on the sidelines of a climate conference in Peru on Thursday to talk about a European proposal.

He also called Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday to discuss “developments in Israel, the West Bank, Jerusalem and the region, as well as current initiatives at the U.N.,” a U.S. official said.

Kerry and Lavrov will meet in Rome on Monday to discuss the same issues, as well as Ukraine and Syria, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

Later on Friday, Kerry talked to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, the State Department said in a statement.

Palestinians seek statehood in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and blockaded Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as their capital - lands captured by Israel in a 1967 war.

Israel accepts the idea of a “two-state solution” of an independent and democratic Palestinian state existing alongside Israel, but has not accepted the 1967 borders as the basis for final negotiations, citing security and other concerns.

[With Reuters]