Netanyahu Calls for Direct Talks with Abbas in New York

Posted September 19th, 2011 at 5:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for a meeting this week in New York with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to relaunch direct negotiations on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Mr. Netanyahu appealed to the Palestinian leader to open talks on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meetings and continue them in Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah.

His call on Monday to relaunch stalled talks comes as Mr. Abbas, who is already in New York for the U.N. meetings, prepares to submit a request for full membership in the world body for a Palestinian state – a move staunchly opposed by Israel and the United States.

Mr. Netanyahu flies to New York on Tuesday. He has said the Palestinians' U.N. bid is doomed to fail and that Palestinians would ultimately seek renewed talks.

Meanwhile, top diplomats from the United States and Europe continue to push to avert a showdown that could further jeopardize Middle East peace prospects.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Mr. Abbas in New York Monday. The U.N. reported that the secretary-general again told Mr. Abbas he favors negotiations rather than a unilateral Palestinian bid for statehood. But Mr. Abbas remained firm.

Mr. Abbas told reporters en route to New York that he will continue his quest for statehood recognition despite warnings from the U.S. and Israel that the move could hurt peace negotiations.

The comments come a day after Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad met in New York with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The French news agency quoted Mr. Fayyad as saying the two officials discussed security issues and the Palestinian Authority's readiness to govern.

The World Bank, International Monetary Fund and United Nations have all said the Palestinian Authority – which governs the West Bank – is capable of running its own state.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she discussed “the way forward” in efforts to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to direct negotiations during a meeting Sunday with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. But Clinton declined to reveal if mediators are making progress.

The U.S. says it will use its veto on the U.N. Security Council against a Palestinian application for full statehood.

Even with a loss in the Security Council, the Palestinians are expected to take their case to the 193-member General Assembly, where a simple majority could grant a more symbolic recognition. The Palestinians currently hold observer status at the United Nations.

U.S.-mediated peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians stalled a year ago, after an Israeli moratorium on West Bank settlement construction expired. Palestinians oppose construction on land they want as part of a future state.

Mr. Abbas has said a Palestinian state must have the borders that were in place before Israel took control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.