Alistair Burt to take charge of Britain's position at the UN


Jewish community leaders will meet Middle East Minister Alistair Burt next week to discuss Britain's stance on the possible unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations.

A spokesman for the Board of Deputies said: "A unilateral declaration of statehood will do nothing to alter the situation on the ground for ordinary Palestinians. Indeed, by creating false expectations which simply cannot be met, the Palestinian Authority risks inflaming tensions and making peace an even more remote possibility. The only way in which a lasting peace can be secure is through direct bilateral negotiations."

The UK government has yet to decide on its position at the United Nations. However, it is now clear that Mr Burt is taking the lead on the issue for the UK government.

It is unusual for the Middle East Minister to be given such a high level of responsibility. But Mr Burt, a vocal supporter of Israel, is known as a safe pair of hands, and David Cameron and William Hague have been happy to delegate to him in this area.

The United States has made it clear it will use its veto in the UN Security Council, but a vote in the UN General Assembly, which meets from September 14, would almost certainly go in favour of recognition.

Ministers and officials are keen to avoid a split with the Americans and the consistent UK line has been to call for the immediate return to negotiations without preconditions, however unlikely this now seems.

The UK coalition faces a dilemma. If it votes "no" at the General Assembly, it will appear to be opposing Palestinian self-determination, but if it abstains, it risks the same charge of indecision on the issue which it levelled at the Brown government.

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