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US denies sanctions threat over Palestinian UN bid

December 31, 2014 at 11:56 am

A US official has denied media reports that Secretary of State John Kerry threatened the Palestinian Authority with economic sanctions if President Mahmoud Abbas goes ahead with a unilateral UN statehood bid. State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told reporters in Washington on Monday that although he will not give the full details of Kerry’s conversation, he did stress that he “did not issue a threat in his conversation with Palestinian President Abbas.”

According to Rathke, the US thinks that the bid has been rushed. “That is why we do not support it, neither on substantive nor on the grounds of timing,” he said, adding that the resolution, if adopted, would set “arbitrary deadlines”. While insisting that the new draft resolution is not something that the US would support, he noted that “other countries” share the same concerns as the US.

Kerry has had contacts with the foreign ministers of at least 13 countries during the past couple of days on the subject, including Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the United Kingdom, Chile, Lithuania, Germany, France, Luxembourg and the representative of the European Union; this in addition to the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, and PA President Mahmoud Abbas. “The Secretary’s sense from talking to his counterparts is that there is… a lot of recognition that this particular resolution… is unconstructive and ill-timed,” said the state department spokesman.

Noting that Kerry had expressed “serious concern about the situation on the ground” during his discussions, Rathke pointed out that this is what prompted the secretary of state to spend nine months promoting talks between Israel and the Palestinians. “Every month that goes by without constructive engagement between the parties,” he added, “just increases polarisation and allows more space for destabilizing efforts.”