Abbas vows UN membership amid diplomatic tussle

17th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

President Mahmud Abbas has promised Palestinians he will seek UN membership before the Security Council next week, amid mounting opposition from Israel and the United States.

With Washington calling the move "counterproductive," Abbas told Palestinians in a televised address on Friday: "It is our legitimate right to demand the full membership of the state of Palestine in the UN."

Europe on Saturday joined the diplomatic tussle, calling for a "constructive solution" on Palestinian statehood and a resumption of negotiations with Israel.

"We continue to believe that a constructive solution that can gather as much support as possible and allows for the resumption of negotiations is the best and only way to deliver the peace and two state solution the Palestinian people want," said Jaja Cocijanic, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Russia has said it will vote in favour of the Palestinian move, and on Friday US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton phoned her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov to discuss "certain issues of the Middle East situation," including the Palestinian UN bid, a foreign ministry statement in Moscow said.

In Israel on Saturday, Yossi Peled, a Likud party minister without portfolio in the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told public radio that Israel could not prevent the Palestinian UN recourse.

"Unfortunately, Israel does not have the means to prevent the Palestinians from demanding adhesion of their state to the UN, and it is impossible to stop them," he said.

"But the initiative will no doubt not get through the Security Council, and will leave us room to negotiate," he said, adding the view that only direct talks would result in the solution of two states for two peoples.

Asked about a possible deterioration of security in the wake of the Palestinian initiative, Peled said that "Israel is an islet of democracy in an Islamist ocean and must show wisdom in opening eyes and ears."

Israel's main Middle East ally Washington has already threatened to veto the Palestinian bid in the Security Council.

Abbas made his pledge after Israel boosted its military presence in the West Bank ahead of expected Palestinian demonstrations as the UN statehood bid looms on September 23.

Explaining US opposition to the planned UN bid, State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said: "We believe that any gesture, any movement in New York to that end would be counterproductive to what the real focus should be on, which is direct negotiations between the parties.

Direct Palestinian peace talks with Israel foundered nearly a year ago in a dispute over Israel's continued construction of Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

Abbas said he would seek UN membership "to put an end to a historical injustice by attaining liberty and independence, like the other peoples of the earth, in a Palestinian state on the borders of June 4, 1967."

He was referring to the lines that existed before the 1967 Six Day War, including Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Israel says they are indefensible and that the borders of a future Palestinian state must be defined in bilateral negotiations.

Washington says the basis for an agreement should be the 1967 borders but with mutually agreed amendments.

Netanyahu says he will go to the UN to explain Israel's opposition to the Palestinian move. His office said: "Peace is not achieved by a unilateral approach to the UN, and not by associating with the Hamas terror organisation."

"Peace will only be attained by direct negotiation with Israel."

Hamas, the Islamist group ruling the Gaza Strip, hit out at Abbas's strategy, to which it is not a party, with spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri saying it could weaken the campaign to allow Palestinian refugees back to their former homes and delegitimise armed opposition to Israeli occupation.

Zacharia al-Agha, a member of Abbas's Fatah movement in Gaza, called in a statement on Saturday for peaceful demonstrations on September 21, ahead of the Palestinian UN membership bid.

On Thursday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged a return to talks and said the deadlock in the peace protest was harming the entire Middle East.

© 2011 AFP

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