DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's former top U.S. diplomat pressed the United States to support a Palestinian bid to upgrade its U.N. status, saying that its longtime ally would "risk losing the little credibility it has in the Arab world" if it failed to do so.
Palestinians are seeking either full membership or recognition as a non-member state when the U.N. General Assembly convenes next week, seeking to level the playing field with Israel, which opposes the move.
The United States vowed four days ago to use its Security Council veto against a Palestinian move for membership.
"With most of the Arab world in upheaval, the 'special relationship' between Saudi Arabia and the United States would increasingly be seen as toxic by the vast majority of Arabs and Muslims, who demand justice for the Palestinian people," Prince Turki al-Faisal, former chief of Saudi Arabia's intelligence services and former Saudi ambassador to the United States, wrote in an opinion piece in Monday's New York Times.
"American support for Palestinian statehood is therefore crucial, and a veto will have profound negative consequences," he wrote.
"In addition to causing substantial damage to American-Saudi relations and provoki ng uproar among Muslims worldwide, the United States would further undermine its relations with the Muslim world, empower Iran and threaten regional stability.
"Let us hope that the United States chooses the path of justice and peace."
Saudi Arabia argues that its biggest foe in the region, Iran, will exploit any discord among Palestinians and try to destabilize the region.
Prince Turki said Saudi Arabia would be forced to adopt "a far more independent and assertive foreign policy," threatening that it could break with U.S. policy on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen.
In the event of a U.S. veto, Prince Turki, nephew of Saudi Arabia's king, warned "Saudi Arabia would no longer be able to cooperate with America in the same way it historically has."
Saudi support has been crucial for U.S. policy in the Middle East, which has become less predictable as calls for reform toppled leaders and threatened autocratic rulers. This has frayed the traditionally strong ties between the world's top oil exporter and biggest economy.
"The Palestinian people deserve statehood and all that it entails: official recognition, endorsement by international organizations, the ability to deal with Israel on more equal footing and the opportunity to live in peace and security," the prince wrote, adding that the administration of President Barack Obama was "preoccupied with a deteriorating domestic economy and a paralysed political scene."
"Today, there is a chance for the United States and Saudi Arabia to contain Iran and prevent it from destabilizing the region," Prince Turki said. "But this opportunity will be squandered if the Obama administration's actions at the United Nations force a deepening split between our two countries."