France said Thursday that European nations are considering recognizing a Palestinian state, heightening pressure on the United States and Israel to re-launch the Middle East peace process.
"Recognition of the state of Palestine is one of the options which France is considering, with its European partners, in a bid to re-launch the peace process," French ambassador Gerard Araud told a Security Council debate on the Middle East.
Britain also indicated that state recognition could be considered.
"Nothing is off the table with regard to recognition in September," said a British spokesman. "But nor are we specifying what conditions would be necessary, or sufficient, to recognize, or indeed not to recognize - we'll have to look at all relevant factors at the time."
Pressure has mounted on US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to break the deadlock in the peace process. Obama will soon make a speech on the Middle East conflict, diplomats said.
"We expect that in a couple of weeks the president will have an opportunity to talk in more depth about the Middle East and North Africa," a senior US official said ahead of Thursday's UN Security Council debate.
'Talks remain only path'
At the meeting, US ambassador Susan Rice reinforced US calls for the Palestinian leadership to return to direct talks, frozen since last September amid recriminations over Israeli settlement building.
"Negotiations between the parties remain the only path to a solution that resolves all issues and establishes a sovereign state of Palestine alongside a secure state of Israel," Rice told the Security Council, without mentioning Obama's plans.
Israel's ambassador Meron Reuben insisted there could only be peace through face-to-face talks.
"It cannot be imposed from the outside," Reuben said. "And any lasting peace agreement must be built on the core principles of mutual recognition and security."
Obama last year set a target of September 2011 for an accord to set up a Palestinian state. But talks between the rivals ended within weeks after Israel refused to extend a moratorium on settlements.
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