Palestinians Launch UN Statehood Bid, Israel Calls For Immediate Peace Talks

Posted September 23rd, 2011 at 2:36 pm (UTC-5)
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Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Friday asked the United Nations to recognize a state of Palestine, despite U.S. and Israeli opposition against the bid.

Addressing the U.N. General Assembly after receiving a standing ovation, the president of the Palestinian Authority called Israel “the occupying power” and said its control of Palestinian enclaves is a policy of “colonial settlement occupation.”

Israel has opposed the Palestinian statehood move, saying it does not advance Mideast peace.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a later speech proposed that peace talks begin immediately at the United Nations, if both parties are serious about reaching an agreement. He reaffirmed Israeli's stance that peace cannot come through U.N. resolutions.

Mr. Netanyahu blamed Palestinians for refusing to restart direct talks, saying the core problem is not the expansion of Israeli settlements but rather the Palestinians' refusal to accept a Jewish state.

He focused much of his speech on the threats Israel faces from its neighbors, taking several swipes at the Iranian government. He said serious peace talks cannot move forward until the Palestinians take Israel's security situation into account.

But Mr. Abbas told the Assembly that due to the expansion of Israeli housing in Palestinian territories the peace process has broken down, leaving the Palestinians no alternative but to seek statehood unilaterally. He added that Israel's continued settlement building is a threat to Palestinian existence.

Mr. Abbas said no one with a “shred of conscience” could reject the Palestinian bid for statehood. He drew thunderous applause when he held up a copy of the proposal that he had submitted to U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon.

The U.N. Security Council could take weeks to consider the application, which would allow more time for diplomacy before the Palestinians consider their next move – approaching the U.N. General Assembly to upgrade their status to a non-voting observer state.

Meanwhile, representatives of the “Quartet” of Middle East peace mediators are due to meet after the leaders' speeches to continue efforts to jump start the peace process.