US intensifies effort to head off UN showdown

NEW YORK — The United States pressed ahead Monday with intensive talks aimed at averting a showdown over Palestinian statehood at the United Nations this week, asking key Muslim ally Turkey not to allow its rift with Israel to grow wider and hoping to coax cooperation from a noncommittal Russia.

As President Barack Obama and other world leaders headed to New York for the annual U.N. General Assembly session, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met her Turkish counterpart and was to see Russia’s foreign minister later in the day.

A senior U.S. official said Clinton had “encouraged” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to repair badly strained ties with Israel and play a positive role in resolving the Palestinian issue that is “looming large” over the General Assembly that opens on Wednesday.

Clinton called on the Turks to repair what she called an unfortunate breach in their relationship with Israel, the official said. A second senior U.S. official added that Washington was particularly concerned about frayed Turkey-Israel ties because the Palestinian confrontation has raised the stakes for further confrontation.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Clinton’s meetings were private.

Meanwhile, Palestinian President Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas vowed not to back down despite “tremendous pressure” on the bid for U.N. recognition and membership in the world body.

Abbas insisted that the statehood goal should not derail a resumption of direct negotiations. The U.S. views the Palestinian plan as counterproductive and a potential roadblock to the peace effort. The U.S. has vowed to veto the measure in the U.N. Security Council.

The pressure from the United States and other quarters was matched by feverish efforts to offer the Palestinian leadership a viable plan forward, conscious that the current state of negotiations with the Jewish state is leading nowhere.

Envoys from the Quartet of Mideast peacemakers — the U.S., U.N., European Union and Russia — were planning to meet for a second straight day in New York. Clinton was set to speak about the logjam with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and various other talks were occurring throughout the city.

The frenetic diplomacy was happening as Abbas arrived Monday in New York to take his case to the Security Council’s 15 members, nine of whose support — and no vetoes — would be needed for passage.

Obama arrives Monday evening, without a clear plan to successfully convince the Palestinians to drop their bid. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was scheduled to arrive Wednesday, when the U.N. gathering formally opens.

The Palestinians are frustrated by their inability to win from Israel concessions such as a freeze on settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. And with violence out of the question and bilateral talks with Israel failing, they see the U.N. route as the only viable route for progress in the short term.

To address the Palestinian concerns, Western officials have discussed the possibility of including some timeframes, however vague, in any statement put out by the Quartet, officials said. These would focus on the restart of Israeli-Palestinian talks and signs of tangible progress once negotiations begin.

The timeframes wouldn’t be deadlines, as such, but are aimed at addressing the Palestinian desire to see quick action. The offer would come with an unchanged message that Washington would veto the Palestinian bid at the Security Council for U.N. recognition and membership, but at the very least it would represent a dignity-saving compromise for Abbas’ U.S.-backed government.

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