BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said EU foreign ministers would discuss support for the Palestinians at a meeting on Tuesday but that it was premature to discuss recognizing a Palestinian state.
“I don’t think we are there yet,” he told reporters when asked, after Palestinian leaders raised the issue, whether the European Union could recognize a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Sweden holds the EU presidency at the moment.
“I would hope we would be in a position to recognize a Palestinian state but there has to be one first. So I think that is a bit premature ... We would be ready to recognize a Palestinian state but conditions are not there as of yet.”
Palestinian officials said on Sunday they planned to go the U.N. Security Council in an effort to secure international support for an independent state, a move attributed to frustration at the lack of progress on peace talks.
The initiative aims to force the Security Council to define the borders of the state the Palestinians want to establish and put the onus on the United Nations to end Israel’s occupation, Mohammed Shatayyeh, a government minister, told Reuters.
“We do not want to declare a state unilaterally under occupation,” he said, clarifying a move that had prompted Israel and international powers to caution against “unilateral” action.
Responding to the Palestinian plan, which surfaced last week, Israel threatened to take counter-measures possibly including annexation of more of the occupied West Bank if the Palestinians declared a state without reaching a peace accord.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who has repeatedly pressed for renewed talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, said it was too early to discuss Palestinian statehood.
“That has to be done with time and calm and at an appropriate moment,” he told reporters in Brussels. “I don’t think today is the moment to talk about that.”
Bildt said ministers would instead discuss ways of showing support for the Palestinians. Asked whether he believed the Palestinian move was an act of desperation, he urged calm.
“I wouldn’t call it desperation. But it is clearly an act born from a very difficult situation where they don’t see any road ahead. I can understand that.”
A senior EU diplomat said the Palestinians had talked to EU envoys in Jerusalem but made no formal request for recognition.
“They are putting forward ideas but I can’t say they’ve asked formally for support ... They are smelling the air.”
In a statement on Monday, chief negotiator Saeb Erekat confirmed that the Palestinians would seek a U.N. Security Council resolution “recognizing an independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital,” but U.S. officials visiting the Middle East dismissed the idea.
“It would be D.O.A. — dead on arrival,” said Democratic Party Senator Ted Kaufman. “It’s a waste of time.”
Additional reporting by Douglas Hamilton in Jerusalem and Ali Sawafta and Tom Perry in Ramallah; writing by Luke Baker in Brussels; editing by Samia Nakhoul