President Barack Obama has sent a letter to Bosnian leaders urging them not to support the Palestinian bid for statehood at the U.N. Security Council, authorities said Thursday.
Bosnia has a non-permanent seat on the Security Council, and its three-member presidency is split on the issue. The Bosniak supports the Palestinians, the Serb is pro-Israeli and the Croat has not made his position clear. Without unanimity, Bosnia must abstain, which counts as a 'no' at the Security Council.
As a result, the country has become the focal point of lobbying efforts by Israelis, Palestinians and others with a stake in the outcome of the vote, which may come Nov. 11. The Palestinians claim they have secured eight of nine required votes for a majority on the council, while the U.S. has promised a veto.
According to a statement from the cabinet of the Serb member of the presidency, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Philip Reeker personally handed over Obama's letter on Wednesday.
"The stand of the U.S. government is that the Palestinian effort on statehood in the U.N. and other places is not going to achieve what we want to see for both the Israelis and the Palestinians in the Middle East," U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia Patrick Moon said. "The solution we all want to see will be achieved through a negotiated settlement."
The Palestinians are trying to rally nine votes in part to trigger the American veto, believing that would give them a moral victory by placing the U.S. at odds with most of the international community.
The Serb member of the Bosnian presidency, Nebojsa Radmanovic, said Thursday that he has been locally and internationally criticized for not supporting the Palestinian bid, but that he is just "acting in the interest of the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina ... as well as in the interest of the Jewish people, the Palestinians and the peace in the Middle East."
He said he believes a solution can only be found in a Israeli-Palestinian agreement, and that Reeker told him the U.S. "appreciates his position."
With peace talks stalled for the past three years, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas asked the Security Council in September to admit Palestine as a full member state. The Palestinians say that although any vote will not end Israel's occupation of lands they claim, they believe a strong international endorsement would boost their position in future negotiations.
Last week, the Israeli and Palestinian foreign ministers visited Bosnia to argue their sides, but neither the Bosniak nor Serb presidents changed stances.