Palestine - A distant dream or a near reality?
A Palestinian boy stands next to his family's house, destroyed during Israel's offensive, in Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem (GAZA)

An Arab League decision to ask the UN to recognize a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines would not serve the peace process, the US said on Thursday.

"We've been clear in our conviction that unilateral approaches to try to seek statehood via the United Nations will not lead to a comprehensive settlement," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told The Jerusalem Post in a statement. "That will only come via the hard give and take of negotiations and mutual agreement, and we are committed to working with the parties to pursue it that way."

The US government statement came after the publication of a communiqué by the Arab League saying that it had decided to ask the UN to recognize a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital, and to upgrade its status to that of a full member of the international organization.

Nabil al-Arabi, Arab League secretary-general, said on Thursday that the group had agreed to "submit a call to the member states of the United Nations to recognise a Palestinian state". The league, he added, would press both the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly to support "full membership of a Palestinian state" at the global body.

The draft statement did not provide a timeline, but Palestinian officials have said they want the application to be made in time for the UN General Assembly's annual meeting in September and a Palestinian delegate said the Arab League had already appointed a committee to set dates.

After the international community's cold reaction to the bid, with Israel, the US and a few European governments opposing it, the Palestinian Authority welcomed the Arab League's decision.

Although 115 countries have already recognized a Palestinian state, the United States, Canada and most of the European Union countries have not.

Understanding the need to gain more international support and recognition, an official in Ramallah said that Abbas was planning to visit a number of European Union countries in the coming days to try to persuade them to support the statehood bid at the UN.

Palestinian leaders are also worried that the US might attempt to veto the bid in the Security Council.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu insisted that such a "unilateral step would not bring peace closer."

"If they [the Palestinians] really wanted peace they would sit down for negotiations, without preconditions. There is no replacement for negotiations," Netanyahu told Chabad emissaries in Tel Aviv. "We are not strangers in this land. The conflict is not about a Palestinian state and never has been. It's about the existence of a Jewish state, which they still don't accept."

Tony Blair, the Quartet envoy to the Middle East, told Channel 2 that he understood why the PA was adamantly pursuing UN recognition of a state, but that he did not think this would produce a final-status agreement.

Blair seemed to agree with the US opinion that an agreement can only be reached through a negotiated solution and that such an agreement was more pressing than ever.

The Quartet met in Washington this week, but failed to release an anticipated statement on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process as it did not reach a consensus.

It consulted again on Thursday, in an attempt to make progress in the stalled peace process, but no information on the progresses made during the meeting have yet been released.

The State Department said in Washington on Thursday that The Quarted would provide an opportunity for Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

"We continue to discuss with our partners ways to get the parties back to the negotiating table," Toner said of Thursday's conference call between the US, EU, UN and Russia. "There are still gaps between them and we're continuing the conversation on how to close those gaps."

"We wouldn't be pushing forward as aggressively as we have been if we didn't believe there was an opportunity here."

While the US and Tony Blair insist negotiations are the only way forward to finally put an end to the conflict, they have until now failed to resolve anything.