US plays down French move to recognize Palestine

State Department says Paris vote was a call for change, but a negotiated peace deal is still the best way forward

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

US State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf (screen capture: Youtube)
US State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf (screen capture: Youtube)

The US on Tuesday played down the significance of a French parliament vote calling for government recognition of a Palestinian state and reiterated that statehood should only come through a negotiated peace agreement.

State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said that the recent spate of European governments promoting the recognition of Palestine indicated a desire to break the current stalemate, although they still saw a negotiated peace deal as the best way forward.

“A number of these countries, I think including France, agree – again, this is nonbinding, the French Government position on this hasn’t changed,” Harf said in a press briefing. “So I think what you’re seeing are people around the world speaking out and saying the status quo is unacceptable. We’ve said that. Everyone has – a lot of people have said that.”

She maintained that a negotiated agreement on a two-state solution was the only way forward, saying: “We very firmly believe that the way to achieve two states is through direct negotiations. We are very crystal clear on that, and again, think that’s the way things need to proceed from here.”

Harf rejected statements by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius last week to the effect that Paris would recognize Palestine if diplomatic efforts failed again and urged a resolution to the Middle East conflict within two years.

“We believe that the way you’re going to get resolution here — we are going to have two states living side by side — isn’t through this kind of action; it’s through direct negotiations. And that’s our position and that’s where we’re going to stay,” she said.

The French decision followed similar moves in Britain and Spain and comes ahead of a vote on recognizing Palestine in the EU parliament. Although the vote in the lower house National Assembly is not binding on French government policy, it sparked criticism from Israel, whose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned it would be a “grave mistake.”

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