- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 5, 2011

MOSCOW (AP) — A top Palestinian official said Tuesday that Russia supports his government’s bid to seek recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations this fall.

Nabil Shaath, head of a Palestinian delegation that met Tuesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, said, “Our plan to go to the United Nations will get support from Russia.”

He didn’t specify exactly what he meant by Russia’s “support,” and the Russian Foreign Ministry wouldn’t comment on Mr. Shaath’s claim.

U.N. membership requires a recommendation from the Security Council and approval by two-thirds of the General Assembly, or 128 countries.

With the United States poised to veto the approval of Palestinian statehood at the U.N. Security Council, the Palestinians plan to turn to the General Assembly, whose decision would be nonbinding but could send a strong international message and put heavy pressure on Israel.

Mr. Shaath, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said, however, that the Palestinian campaign for statehood will not replace his nation’s determination to resume stalled peace talks with Israel.

“Going to the United Nations is not a substitute for going to negotiations,” he said, voicing hope that Russia’s mediation will help resume peace talks.

The Palestinians insist they will not resume peace talks until Israel stops building settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem — areas Israel captured in the 1967 war and the Palestinians claim for their future state.

Israel maintains that the Palestinians should not be setting conditions for talks and that settlements didn’t stop them from negotiating in the past.

Russia is a member of the so-called Quartet of Mideast peacemakers along with the United States, the European Union and the United Nations. The group is set to meet in Washington next week to spur the resumption of the talks.

Mr. Lavrov said the aim of talks by the Quartet is the creation of an “independent, democratic Palestinian state.”

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