European Union governments sought a common approach on Friday to a possible Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations this month but deep policy differences looked set to undermine the efforts.
Austria's Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said one solution could be for the EU to propose its own resolution to the U.N. on the sensitive issue but other diplomats said privately that several EU capitals opposed the idea.
Speaking to reporters at a seaside resort in Poland, where EU foreign ministers met for two days of informal talks, Spindelegger said the bloc could use its previous statements on the Middle East as a basis for a common view.
"So far the positions in the EU are very divergent," Spindelegger told reporters. "I hope that we, as Europe, can send a signal ... and phrase a text which eventually might be brought before the (U.N.) assembly."
With peace talks with Israel frozen, the Palestinians have vowed to seek full U.N. membership for a state in the besieged Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital, during the assembly's next General Assembly in September.
The bid has little chance of success because of opposition from the United States which has said it would veto it at the Security Council.
A veto would prevent a vote from being held at the General Assembly but the Palestinians may seek an upgrade of their status instead which would bring the issue up for discussion at the forum.
As well aggravating tensions in the Middle East, for the EU, a vote at the U.N. could be deeply embarrassing, if members of the 27-state bloc split into opposing camps, with some backing Palestinian efforts and others opposing them.
Having its difficulties in forging a common view exposed would undermine the EU's efforts to become more influential in international affairs.
The EU's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, has tried to bolster the EU's global clout since taking the position in 2009, and in particular since the Arab Spring has created an opportunity for the EU to have a say in how new democracies in North Africa and the Middle East develop.
Ashton herself said in Sopot that EU capitals still had to time to decide how to act at the U.N. and said efforts should continue to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians in the meantime.
"I just came back from discussions with the leadership of the Palestinian authority and the Prime Minister of Israel ... on how we move forward to get negotiations moving," she told reporters.
"My objective is the resumption of negotiations so we can actually get to a settlement."
But foreign ministers speaking in Sopot underscored deeply ingrained differences in Europe.
Luxembourg's Jean Asselborn said the EU needed to give support to the Palestinians and a bid for an upgrade of their status at the U.N.
"I cannot agree to say no," he said.
Dutch minister Uri Rosenthal expressed the opposite view, shared by EU powerbroker Germany, the United States and Israel, that the Palestinians should refrain from unilateral moves and push to resume peace negotiations instead.
"The Dutch position has been very clear ... we are totally against any unilateral steps whatever they might be and any step should be on the basis of any agreement of all the parties concerned," he said.
Europrean Union immediately called the move a 'fundamental step' toward peace
'We are telling our security forces, our political movements, that we do not want an escalation, but that we want to protect ourselves,' Palestinian leader says
European Council President Donald Tusk warns of potential new waves of refugees should Assad come out victorious in Syria
As Hungary and Croatia shut their borders with Serbia, experts fear refugees face dangers of minefields as they trek through Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia
According to Palestinian Red Crescent, at least 500 West Bank Palestinians have been injured by Israeli gunfire in last three days alone
British PM says he plans to ask for parliamentary permission to strike ISIL in Syria
Strikes, protest related to airlines company's decision to cut jobs could negatively influence France's image, president says
European Commission chief says he had thrashed out details of the plan during his talks with Turkish president Erdogan
Army and rebels have repeatedly traded blame, accusing each other of breaking the ceasefire, the eighth such agreement to have been signed
Palestinian homes have been destroyed as clashes escalate throughout West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Alliance calls Russian incursion an "extreme danger" and urges Moscow not to attack Syrian rebels and civilians.
Abdurrahman Tabakovic, who hails from a town just outside Sarajevo, has officially become the 'country's youngest person' to learn the Quran by heart
Croatia will hold general elections on Nov. 8, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said in a statement on Monday, as Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic’s government fights to stay in power following a six-year recession.
New project uses satellites to bring Internet access to large parts of continent
The award-winning refugee teacher, Aqeela Asifi, has been recognized for bringing education to refugee girls in a remote community in Pakistan
Since beginning of 2015, 172,402 migrants have entered Serbia