Monday, September 19, 2011

Final push begins to head off Palestinian crisis

By Arshad Mohammed and Patrick Worsnip

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A last-ditch international push began in New York on Sunday to try to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and avert a crisis over Palestinian statehood at the United Nations.

Officials met two days after President Mahmoud Abbas said he would demand full membership of the world body for a Palestinian state at the U.N. General Assembly this week, setting up a diplomatic clash with Israel and the United States.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held talks with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. Asked before the meeting if either could report any progress, Clinton replied, "We are meeting to talk about the way forward." Asked if that meant no progress, she said, "I didn't say that."

Senior diplomats from the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations -- the so-called Quartet of Middle East mediators -- also met on Sunday, an EU official said, as part of an intense effort in recent weeks to persuade the Palestinians to drop their U.N. plans.

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