Obama to Meet Netanyahu, Abbas in NY Wednesday

Posted September 21st, 2011 at 4:51 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama is holding separate meetings in New York Wednesday with his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, amid a push to head off a diplomatic clash at the United Nations.

Mr. Abbas is moving ahead with a campaign for full U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state, despite efforts to avoid a vote on the matter at the Security Council. Mr. Obama's administration has pledged to veto such a move and is working to get Mr. Abbas and the Israeli prime minister back into direct peace talks instead.

Mr. Obama is scheduled to meet with Mr. Netanyahu after addressing the U.N. General Assembly, and to hold talks with Mr. Abbas later in the day .

Senior diplomats from the Mideast Quartet – the U.S., EU, U.N. and Russia – are meeting throughout the week in hopes of a last-minute breakthrough. The Quartet has been trying to put together guidelines for future peace talks, so far without result.

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.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Wednesday there will be no new freeze on settlement building.

Mr. Netanyahu has publicly called on the Palestinian leader to meet with him in New York to resume direct peace talks, and to continue them in Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The Israeli leader's appeal increases pressure on Mr. Abbas to stall the Palestinians' U.N. application, but does not provide any indication of whether Mr. Netanyahu is willing to agree to any Palestinian demands.

Also Wednesday, Palestinian gathered in the center of the West Bank city of Ramallah to rally in support of the statehood bid. Schools and government offices were closed to allow workers and students to participate.

Mr. Netanyahu has said the Palestinians' U.N. bid is doomed to fail and that Palestinians ultimately will seek renewed talks. However, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Tuesday his government “fully” supports the Palestinian bid for statehood.

On Monday, Mr. Abbas outlined his plan for full membership in the world body to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The U.N. chief responded by calling on the Palestinians and Israelis to resume negotiations within what he called “a legitimate and balanced framework.”

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.