Reuters International

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A renewed Palestinian drive to persuade the U.N. Security Council to condemn Israeli settlements is aimed at removing the biggest obstacle to peace and boosting French efforts to broker an agreement, the Palestinian U.N. envoy said on Tuesday.

Riyad Mansour, permanent Palestinian observer to the United Nations, told a small group of reporters that Arab delegations have received the draft resolution.

He said the point of putting the draft about Israeli settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank forward was "to keep the hope alive, to remove this obstacle from the path of peace, to open doors for peace, (and) to try to help the French initiative to stand on its feet."

With U.S. efforts to broker a two-state solution in tatters since 2014 and Washington focussed on this year's election, France has been lobbying countries to commit to a conference that would get Israelis and Palestinians back to negotiations about ending their conflict.

Mansour said Washington vetoed a similar resolution about Israel's settlements five years ago because of fears it would undermine peace talks. But now, he noted, there are no peace talks.

In February 2011, the United States voted against a draft resolution condemning Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory, though it said at the time its opposition should not be misunderstood as support for settlement activity.

The United States considers Israeli settlements on land the Palestinians want for a future state to be illegitimate.

Washington has not offered substantive comment on the new Palestinian draft, which has fuelled speculation in Israeli media the United States is undecided about whether to use its veto this time.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will be in New York next week to sign the Paris climate agreement. He is expected to meet with French President Francois Hollande on the sidelines, diplomats say, and will likely discuss the Palestinian draft resolution.

So far Egypt, the sole Arab council member, has not formally introduced the text.

Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon last week reacted sharply to Israeli media reports about a possible Palestinian draft resolution on settlements.

"The Palestinians must understand that there are no shortcuts," he said in a statement. "The only way to promote negotiations starts by them condemning terrorism and stopping the incitement, and ends with direct negotiations between the two sides."

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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