US supports two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict: US ambassador to UN

UN envoy Nikki Haley sought to assure the world on Thursday (Feb 16) that the Trump administration supports Palestinian statehood but wants a "thinking out of the box" approach.
UN envoy Nikki Haley sought to assure the world on Thursday (Feb 16) that the Trump administration supports Palestinian statehood but wants a "thinking out of the box" approach.PHOTO: REUTERS

UNITED NATIONS (NYTIMES) - Twenty-four hours after President Donald Trump swatted away at a broad international consensus on how to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians, his UN envoy sought to assure the world on Thursday (Feb 16) that his administration supports Palestinian statehood but wants a "thinking out of the box" approach.

"We absolutely support a two-state solution," US ambassador Nikki Haley said in answer to a question after a Security Council meeting devoted to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"But we are thinking out of the box as well, which is - what does it take to bring these two sides to the table, what do we need to have them agree on?" she said.

She said nothing about what that approach would be, nor did she go any further in revealing a coherent picture of US policy on the conflict, one of the most intractable in the world.

The day before, Mr Trump hinted at a new regional effort aimed at bringing the two sides together, but he said he would not insist on the creation of a Palestinian state.

"I'm looking at two-state and one-state," he said. "I like the one that both parties like."

Both Ms Haley's and Mr Trump's remarks were in sharp contrast with warnings from other diplomats, including the UN envoy entrusted to help the two sides find a path out of their long, bitter conflict.

"The two-state solution remains the only way to achieve the legitimate national aspirations of both peoples," Mr Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council earlier in the day.

"Israel can take the necessary step to stop settlement expansion and construction in order to preserve this prospect, while the Palestinian leadership can demonstrate their commitment to tackling the challenges of violence and incitement on their side," he said.

Speaking in Egypt the day before, Mr Mladenov's boss, secretary-general António Guterres, said: "There is no Plan B to the situation between Palestinians and Israelis but a two-state solution."

Swedish Ambassador Olof Skoog told reporters on his way into the Security Council meeting on Thursday that "it's very dangerous to move away from the two-state solution idea, especially before you have something viable as an alternative."

France's Ambassador François Delattre said the risks were too high.

"Should the prospect of a two-state solution disappear as a mirage in the desert, then that would be an open door to more extremism and more terrorism," he said.

Ms Haley, who has been on the job for less than a month, used her remarks to the media mostly to criticise the United Nations as a whole for what she called its "anti-Israel bias."

Palestinians have accused the Trump administration of the opposite. The United States objected last week to the appointment of a former Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, as the secretary-general's envoy to Libya.

The Palestinian ambassador, Riyad Mansour, said on Thursday that Mr Fayyad had been rejected "simply because he was a Palestinian."