Kerry urges 'other options' as Palestinians seek U.N. resolution

Kerry meets with Palestinian officials, who press for a UN resolution on a Palestinian state

Secretary of State John F. Kerry urged patience Tuesday as he met in London with Palestinian officials seeking a U.N. resolution that would lay the groundwork for a Palestinian state.

Speaking to reporters before the meeting, Kerry declined to take a position on the resolution, which would call for an end to Israel's occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem and the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state in two years.

However, he cautioned against any action that would "interfere" with Israel's elections in March.

"It’s a particularly sensitive moment because we understand the frustrations of Palestinians. We understand the frustrations of the Palestinian Authority and President [Mahmud] Abbas and those who are pushing hard, because they don’t see another course at this moment," Kerry said.

However, he said, the two sides need to look for "other options, other ways" to defuse tension in the region.

The Bloomberg news service quoted Mohammad Shtayyeh, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s central committee, as saying he had been told by chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat that the subsequent discussion with Kerry was “very difficult” and that the U.S. diplomat questioned the validity of the U.N. bid.

Palestinians will press ahead regardless, Shtayyeh told reporters.

The Palestinian news agency Maan said that Erekat had "rejected Kerry's dictates," although it did not say what those were.

In his remarks to reporters, Kerry, who met the day before with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, steered clear of any public commitment on the Palestinian resolution.

"We've made no determinations about language, approaches, specific resolutions, any of that," he said. "This isn't the time to detail private conversations or speculate on a U.N. Security Council resolution that hasn't even been tabled."

The Palestinians said Sunday that they would submit their resolution for a Security Council vote Wednesday after their meeting with Kerry.

However, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki told the official Palestinian radio on Tuesday that discussions were continuing with all parties, including the French government, which is preparing an alternative, watered down European resolution on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

While the Palestinian resolution calls for an end to the Israeli occupation in two years, the French resolution calls for a period of 24 months of negotiations that should lead to setting a timetable for ending the Israeli occupation.

The Palestinians have said they will not engage in further negotiations with Israel after more than 20 years of failed talks and have demanded a timetable for Israeli withdrawal based on previously signed agreements.

Malki said that if the French agree to introduce changes to their resolution that would bring it close to the Palestinian one, the Palestinian leadership might accept it. He said that if this does not work, the Palestinians may submit their resolution by Thursday.

Meanwhile, tension was high once again in the West Bank on Tuesday after Israeli army killed a young Palestinian in Qalandia refugee camp, north of Jerusalem.

Israeli soldiers entered the refugee camp before dawn to arrest Palestinian activists.

Confrontations broke out with camp residents, prompting the soldiers to use live fire, which killed Mahmoud Udwan, 21.

Medics at Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah said Udwan was killed after he was hit by a bullet to the face.

Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, said Israeli special forces "came under attack in an overnight operation in Qalandia," army spokesman Peter Lerner said. "In the exchange, one terrorist was killed, another wounded and detained."

Palestinians rejected the Israeli army version of events.

"Mahmoud was home with a friend when they heard commotion outside," said Mahmoud's father, Abdullah Udwan. "He told his friend not to go out because there were soldiers and there were confrontations, but when he went to the balcony to look, a sniper shot him in the face."

Hundreds of camp residents participated in Udwan's funeral, during which masked gunmen fired shots in the air.

Young camp residents also threw rocks at a nearby Israeli army checkpoint and soldiers fired back with rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas.

Abukhater is a special correspondent

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