Abbas Vows to Pursue Palestinian Independence

Posted September 16th, 2011 at 11:45 am (UTC-5)
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Saying Palestinians deserve independence, President Mahmoud Abbas vowed Friday to seek full membership to the United Nations next week despite Israeli and U.S. objections.

Mr. Abbas told Palestinian leaders in Ramallah on Friday that full U.N. membership is a legitimate right for Palestinians and that he will go to New York with an “olive branch” in hand. He added that a Palestinian state must have borders that were in place before Israel took control of Palestinian territories in 1967.

Mr. Abbas is expected to make his case in an address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 23rd. He could then submit a request to the Security Council asking that an independent Palestine be accepted as a member state.

American envoys have been shuttling between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in an attempt to revive peace talks and forestall the Palestinian bid for statehood at the U.N. Israel and the United States oppose unilateral Palestinian moves toward statehood.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will also address the U.N. General Assembly next week. Mr. Netanyahu said Thursday the leaders could “spare the trip” to New York and go the “simplest way” to resolve the situation by sitting down to peace talks.

The White House announced on Friday that President Barack Obama will meet Mr. Netanyahu next week to discuss ways to revive Middle East peace talks.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on Thursday that peace talks are the only way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He added that U.S. envoys will continue to push Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

A bid for full membership for the Palestinians would be subject to a veto by one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, including the U.S., which has opposed the Palestinian plan and said it would use its veto power.

Palestinians could achieve non-member status by winning a simple majority in the 193-member General Assembly, where they enjoy strong support. Palestinians currently hold observer status at the United Nations.

Palestinian U.N. envoy Riyad Mansour told reporters Thursday that Palestinians have been working for years to build institutions that would make it easier for them to quickly form a state.