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US urges Palestinian-Israeli caution

EU vote to unconditionally recognise state of Palestine on Wednesday unlikely, as Palestinian envoy makes first address to ICC
US Secretary of State John Kerry in Brussels, Belgium, on 03 December, 2014 (AA)

The United States is trying to carefully navigate a path forward as Palestinians seek to push hopes for their state to the top of the UN agenda, top US diplomat John Kerry said Tuesday.

But as the Palestinians threaten to submit a draft text Wednesday to the UN Security Council, Kerry hinted Washington did not believe now was the right time as Israel gears up for snap elections in March.

Speaking to reporters just before meeting with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat in London, Kerry said he had had a series of "candid and constructive conversations" during his three-day whirlwind trip to Europe.

"Many of us share a deep sense of urgency about this, given the constant threat of escalation and the dangers of a downward spiral of violence," the US secretary of state told a press conference.

"But we're also very mindful that we have to carefully calibrate any steps that are taken for this difficult moment in the region. We all understand the challenges that are presented by this conflict."

Amid reports of competing Arab-backed and French-led resolutions, Kerry has been meeting his European and Russian counterparts as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to gauge support for the Palestinian UN push.

The Palestinians have said they will submit an Arab-backed draft text to the UN as early as Wednesday which would call for a withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinian lands within two years -- a timetable the US would oppose.

France is putting together a different version setting a two-year timetable for concluding a peace treaty, without mentioning the withdrawal of Israeli forces.

Palestinian envoy makes first address to ICC

Meanwhile, Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour told member-states of the International Criminal Court in a first address on Monday that the Palestinians plan to join the ICC "at an appropriate time."

Mansour made the address after the Palestinians were given the status of observer state to the assembly of states parties to the ICC but they have yet to formally apply to join the 122-member court.

"The time to join will be decided by our leadership at an appropriate time," Mansour said.

The Palestinians have threatened to file a suit against Israel over the 50-day war in the Gaza Strip, in which more than 2,000 Palestinians were killed, most of them civilians.

"It is the court where the Palestinian people desire to seek justice for the war crimes and crimes against humanity being perpetrated against them by Israel, the occupying power, in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem," Mansour said.

Israel has denied wrongdoing and argued that Hamas used civilians as shields during the war that ended in August. 

Neither Israel nor the United States have signed on to the Rome statute and become members of international court. 

No EU vote to recognise Palestine

Meanwhile, EU lawmakers will not be proposing a joint motion urging members to recognise the state of Palestine during a vote that scheduled to take place Wednesday, Reuters reported.

Members of Social Democrat, left-wing and Green parties in the European Parliament had proposed a motion that would be call on the 28 EU members to recognise Palestine without conditions.

But the European People's Party (EPP) and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), said recognition should only come after a negotiated agreement with Israel.

After Tuesday's talks, negotiators agreed on the following text:

"(The European Parliament) supports in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood and the two-state solution, and believes these should go hand in hand with the development of peace talks, which should be advanced."