New York, New York—"Until we have a resolution to see, Daniel, the United Kingdom is not answering that question and you will not evoke another answer, I know, from another authoritative source from the United Kingdom delegation,” Alistair Burt, a member of Parliament and a member of the UK delegation to the U.N., tells me in response to a question about whether his nation will support the Palestinian bid for statehood this week.
The resolution will supposedly come tomorrow, though there are now reports that the Palestinians will circumvent the U.N. Security Council because it currently lacks support necessary to gain recognition.
And though Burt won’t say how the Brits would vote, it seems difficult for him to hide his skepticism of the latest Palestinian move. “A resolution at the United Nations will not change the events on the ground,” Burt says. “And, accordingly, it is negotiations that will do that.”
Burt, speaking on behalf of the British delegation, believes that both sides should return to the negotiating table. “We are urging both parties to take the opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to negotiations,” Burt says. “And for that to be the result of the deliberations this week would, we think, be good news for the Middle East and for the peace process.”
He won’t say that the Palestinians should abandon their latest move–presumably that’s too undiplomatic to say—but he does criticize any attempt at “unilateral action” that might circumvent the peace process. “We do not believe that Palestinian statehood and settlement in the Middle East peace process will come about either from unilateral action from one side or the other, or from a resolution through any outside body,” Burt says, subtly suggesting that U.N. action cannot settle the issue.
“Ultimately, it’s got to come through a relationship between the two parties principally involved. And it’s a recognition of that that will confer proper statehood on Palestine and a sense of settlement on the issues…anything that does not involve acceptance by both sides of the elements of the peace deal between them is just not ultimately going to work. So there’s a lot of progress to be made between where we are now and that position.”
Burt, however, is also careful not to side with the Israelis. When asked to respond to remarks made by Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., Ron Prosor, who recently called the Palestinian bid for statehood “a new kind of warfare,” Burt refuses.
“I’m not going to be drawn into commenting on Ron Prosor’s remarks—he speaks for the state of Israel,” Burt says. “The United Kingdom is not going to be drawn into that. I’m more interested in what our position is, and that is very clear, as I’ve indicated before. It’s all about pressing both sides into negotiations. Nothing here should make that more difficult.”