UN braces for Palestinian member state bid
World leaders braced Thursday for a UN showdown, with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas determined to submit a bid to the United Nations to admit Palestine as a member state.
The US administration, which has led last-minute behind-the-scenes wrangling to try to divert the Palestinian ambition, seemed resigned to the fact that Abbas would go ahead with the application as planned on Friday.
The office of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he would meet for 10 minutes with Abbas at 11:35 (1535 GMT) on Friday, although UN officials could not confirm whether a letter would be handed over at that time.
"I think it is important to note that regardless of what happens tomorrow in the United Nations, we remain focused on the day after," US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday.
She told reporters: "I remain committed to working with the parties to obtain the goal that the United States supports, that is a two-state solution..
Clinton added that the US would leave "no effort or stone unturned in our commitment to achieving that."
But there was anger in the Palestinian territories against Wednesday's UN address by US President Barack Obama in which he insisted the only way to achieve the Palestinian dream of statehood was through negotiations.
More than 1,000 Palestinians carrying signs denouncing Obama gathered outside Abbas's West Bank headquarters before marching into the city center shouting: "It's shameful for America to support the occupation."
In Gaza City, around 300 women held a protest outside the UN headquarters, shouting anti-Obama slogans.
"Our people demonstrated yesterday and today to express their feeling that (Obama's) speech does not meet Palestinian hopes for the freedom and independence that the US administration is calling for all people, except the Palestinians," said top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat.
"Despite this unfair position and all the pressure, president Abbas will submit tomorrow (Friday) a request to admit the state of Palestine at the UN via the Security Council," Erakat said.
Abbas will address the UN General Assembly Friday and then leave swiftly for the Palestinian territories for consultations on the next step forward.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has called on Abbas to hold talks in New York, will also address the UN General Assembly on Friday, most likely in the afternoon.
The request for UN member state status will then go before the UN Security Council where the Palestinians have to win nine of the 15 member votes -- although the United States has already said it would veto the request.
Abbas's diplomatic advisor Majdi al-Khaldi said the Palestinians believed they would get the votes needed.
But he revealed: "Three of the members of the Security Council are under pressure from the Americans," citing "Bosnia, Gabon and Nigeria."
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has proposed that the Palestinians should be temporarily granted non-member observer state status and set out a timetable for new negotiations with the aim of a deal within a year.
The European Union's president, Herman Van Rompuy, urged Israel and the Palestinians to resume direct talks in his address to the United Nations.
"Now, the resumption of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is the top priority," he said.
As a member of the Quartet seeking a negotiated resolution of the Middle East conflict -- alongside the UN, the United States and Russia -- the European Union is deeply engaged in the peace process, he said.
Envoys from the Quartet met Thursday in New York, aiming to draw up a statement to coax both sides back to talks.
"The Quartet envoys met for several hours today. They continue to work constructively, and will meet again this evening or tomorrow (Friday) morning," a US official said asking to remain anonymous.
British Prime Minister David Cameron did not say how Britain would vote in any resolution on Palestinian statehood, but he said the Palestinians have a right to their own state and Israel to security.
"Peace will only come when Palestinians and Israelis sit down and talk to each other, make compromises, build trust and agree," he added.
Turkey meanwhile, which is embroiled in a diplomatic row with Israel, called for international "pressure" on Israel to make peace with the Palestinians.
© 2011 AFP