US says Palestinian state should come via talks, not unilateral recognition

By Nandita Bose and Trevor Hunnicutt

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden believes a Palestinian state should be achieved through negotiations, not unilateral recognition, the White House said on Wednesday after Ireland, Spain and Norway said they would recognize a Palestinian state this month.

Washington's reaction appeared to signal U.S. dismay that the three European nations announced an intent to proceed with unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state, which does not exist in practice.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told a regular news briefing each country could make its own decision on recognition of a Palestinian state, but that Biden thinks direct negotiations by the parties is the best approach.

"President Biden believes that a two-state solution that guarantees Israel's security and also a future of dignity and security for the Palestinian people is the best way to bring about long-term security and stability for everyone in the region," Sullivan said.

"President Biden ... has been equally emphatic on the record that that two-state solution should be brought about through direct negotiations through the parties, not for unilateral recognition."

Sullivan had been asked if the United States was concerned that other nations might follow suit in recognizing a Palestinian state. He said the U.S. would communicate its consistent position to partners "see what unfolds."

WAR IN GAZA

Decades of U.S. efforts have failed to achieve a "two-state solution" with Israel living alongside a Palestinian state encompassing the West Bank, ruled by the Palestinian Authority (PA), and Gaza, ruled by the Hamas Islamist movement since it seized the coastal strip from the PA in a brief 2007 civil war.

Israel began an offensive in Gaza after Hamas-led gunmen attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 253 hostages, according to Israeli figures.

More than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since then, health officials in the Hamas-run enclave say.

Israel is now attacking Rafah in southern Gaza, saying it wants to root out Hamas militants. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have fled Rafah since the start of the assault, and the main access routes for aid into Gaza have been blocked.

Sullivan said he was briefed on Israeli plans to minimize civilian harm in Rafah during a weekend visit to the region, and Washington will track whether the assault causes widespread death and destruction or is more precise and proportional.

"We now have to see what unfolds from here," he said.

He said aid was flowing in from a pier in Gaza, and that it was wrong for Israel to withhold funds from the West Bank.

The Biden administration also hopes to broker an arrangement leading Saudi Arabia and Israel to normalize relations. As part of that process, Saudi Arabia has demanded the Gaza conflict end and a path to a Palestinian state, something Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be likely to find hard to accept.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt, Nandita Bose and David Brunnstrom; Writing by Doina Chiacu, Arshad Mohammed and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)