Palestinians going ahead with UN statehood bid
By Nasser Abu Bakr (AFP) – Jun 26, 2011
RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories – Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said on Sunday that with no renewal of peace talks on the horizon, the Palestinians would pursue their unilateral bid for recognition in September.
"I say that if negotiations have failed we will go to the United Nations for membership," Abbas told a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and his Fatah party.
"Until now there have been no new incentives to return to negotiations," he said.
The meeting, in the West Bank city of Ramallah where Abbas has his headquarters, was called to make preparations for the UN campaign.
Abbas had indicated that the Palestinians would be willing to give up the September bid for recognition of a Palestinian state if long dormant peace talks with Israel could be resurrected.
While many states have indicated they will support the bid, including France and Britain, it has faced strong opposition from Israel, the United States and Germany, who said any progress toward a Palestinian state must be made through a negotiated agreement.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said that granting UN membership to a Palestinian state could actually help bring the sides back to the negotiating table.
"We do not think that there is a contradiction between the two demands," he told AFP. "This measure is inevitable if (the international community) wants to preserve the peace process."
Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians ground to a halt in September 2010 when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to renew a partial freeze on settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.
The Palestinians then refused to return to talks as long as Israel built on land they want for a future state.
Instead, they decided to go to the UN General Assembly in September to ask for membership and recognition of a Palestinian state in the borders that existed before the 1967 Six–Day War.
One of the stumbling blocks to a renewal of talks has been a recent unity deal between Abbas's Fatah party and Gaza's Islamist Hamas rulers after years of enmity.
Israel has refused to deal with Hamas, or any government in which it is a partner, for as long as it calls for Israel's destruction.
The unity deal has also run into domestic difficulties, with the two Palestinian sides failing to agree on a prime minister for an interim government.
Hamas has vociferously rejected Abbas's candidate, incumbent prime minister Salam Fayyad.
Talks between Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal on a new Palestinian cabinet, set for Cairo last week, were indefinitely postponed.
But Abbas indicated on Sunday he was not giving up on reconciliation and would be prepared to go to the Gaza Strip.
"For a long time I said I would go to Gaza, and now I say I am still determined to go to Gaza and it will be a surprise for all," he said.
Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe Sunday said the Mideast Quartet –– the US, Russia, European Union and United Nations –– working on the peace process could meet in July in Washington and that France's proposal for a peace conference "is not dead."
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