Map of Palestine according to Fatah-ruled PA
Map of Palestine according to Fatah-ruled PA Israel news photo: PMW

A top British official said Thursday that Britain would not recognize a state declared unilaterally by the Palestinian Authority in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. "Negotiations are necessary to ensuring a true peace", Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Alistair Burt said as he wrapped up a Middle East visit in Jordan on Thursday.

"We are looking forward to recognizing a Palestinian state at the end of the negotiations on settlements because our position is again very straightforward: We wish to see a two-state solution, a secure and recognized Israel side by side with a viable Palestine, Jerusalem as a joint capital and agreed borders," Burt said. "That’s where we want to get to. When we get there, that of course will imply recognition of a state of Palestine.” The only way to get there, he said, was via a negotiated settlement.

The PA had hoped that London would join other nations that have recognized the PA's virtual state, which the Authority is considering declaring in the UN next September. Last month, reports said that the British Foreign Office was considering upgrading the status of the PA's diplomatic delegation to London. The report, in Yediot Achronot and the Irish Independent newspapers, said that The PA was to be given virtually the same diplomatic status as other delegations, implying that London was preparing to recognize a state if and when the Authority declares one unilaterally.

But Burt clarified Britain's position Thursday, saying that London could not "recognize a state that does not have a capital, and doesn’t have borders." While Britain would “carefully consider” any resolution the PA files with the UN General Assembly or Security Council, Burt said adoption of a unilateral declaration of independence “is not up for decision immediately,” and that such recognition would only come “when it is appropriate," after a negotiated settlement between Israel and the PA.

Burt is a former member of the British Conservative Friend of Israel, and is considered by many to be sympathetic to Israel. In response to reporter's questions in Jordan as to whether he was too biased in Israel's favor, Burt said that his past actually put him in a better position to be a mediator.

"No one in Israel is in a position, or has even thought of querying my sense of understanding of what Israel is and what it wishes to be, and I always wanted to see an Israel that was at ease and peace with its neighbors, and to have the ability to work for that is very important,” Burt said, adding that he was “friends with the middle East, I’ve been warmly received by my Palestinian friends who have respected the fact that I have a direct engagement with Israel, that I hope have seen through my actions and my contacts with them and what I have said in the house of commons on these issues of concern, I hope that they have been able to see that I am an objective supporter of British foreign policy.

"We all have good friends on all different sides of issues; it's how you use your friendship that is the most important thing. I hope I’ve given people a clear sense of how I want to use that friendship in the best interests of peace in the Middle East."

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