Britain, France urge UN action on Middle East, NZ drafting text

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 21, 2015 4:47 PM

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Britain and France urged the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday to set a framework to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians as council member New Zealand said it had started working on a draft resolution to kick-start the process.

France said last month that it planned to begin talks on a draft text to lay out "parameters" for ending the Middle East conflict and that it hoped to win over the United States, which has traditionally shielded its ally Israel from any U.N. action.

The United States has said it would "reassess" its options on U.S.-Israel relations and Middle East diplomacy after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took a stand against Palestinian statehood during his election campaign.

Palestinians seek a state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in 1967.

"It's the responsibility of this council to adopt a consensual and balanced resolution that sets the parameters of a final status and a timeline for the negotiations," French U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre told a council meeting.

France and New Zealand signaled that now was the time for the Security Council to act after Israel held its election last month and before the U.S. presidential campaign ramps up ahead of a November 2016 poll.

"We have been working on a text that might serve the purpose of getting negotiations started," said New Zealand's U.N. Ambassador Jim McLay. He added that New Zealand was prepared to see how the French-led push for a resolution played out first.

"We have not seen the latest French text, but if it has a chance of succeeding, New Zealand stands ready to engage and to be helpful," McLay said.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said that Britain saw merit in a council resolution "setting out the parameters for a peaceful and negotiated solution."

"But this will require proper consultation to achieve the full backing of the council," he told the council.

In December, the United States voted against a Palestinian-drafted resolution calling for an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem and the establishment of a Palestinian state by late 2017.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said Washington remained committed to a two-state solution.

"It is critically important that leaders urgently reengage in efforts to achieve peace, which is the most effective way to prevent such tension from escalating, as it has too many times before," Power told the Security Council.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by James Dalgleish)