Palestinians won't be deterred from UN bid

The Palestinians say they will submit a letter formally requesting UN membership after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the United Nations General Assembly on Friday.
President Mahmoud Abbas, left, enters the room with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday during the 66th session of the General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York. (Seth Wenig/Associated Press)

The Palestinians say they will submit a letter formally requesting UN membership after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the United Nations General Assembly on Friday.

Abbas said Monday that he’s been under "tremendous pressure" to drop the bid for statehood recognition for the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, but he won’t be deterred.

Any candidate for UN membership must first submit a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stating it is "peace-loving" and accepts the UN charter.

Abbas met Ban at the UN on Monday morning. Then Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN observer, told reporters the Palestinian leader would submit a letter after his speech to the 193-member General Assembly.

Ban is expected to examine the letter and send it to the UN Security Council, which must give its approval before an assembly vote.

UN faces dramatic week

Political leaders and officials are gathering in New York City for what is shaping up to be a dramatic week at the UN.

Although statehood recognition from the UN would be mostly symbolic, the Palestinian Authority believes the status could give it a stronger hand negotiating with Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, says the Palestinians must negotiate with Israel and not pursue their statehood goals through the UN. He planned to be in New York this week to make his case.

Israel's deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, said future co-operation could be seriously harmed if the Palestinian Authority continues to focus its hopes on the UN, rather than negotiations.

"If the Palestinians do not step up to the table and discuss with us in good faith, in seriousness, in mutual respect, [then] all the issues, we cannot, we will not find a solution."

U.S. President Barack Obama supports the idea of a Palestinian state but believes that negotiations with Israel are the way to get there.  If the membership bid gets to the Security Council, the U.S. will veto it. Obama was to head to New York on Monday night.

A veto against the Palestinians could damage the U.S. in the Arab world, so political leaders and officials from key countries  are trying to find a way to avert or put off a vote and perhaps take a step toward peace talks instead.

Quartet trying to get bid dropped

Officials from the Quartet of Mideast mediators — the U.S., European Union, Russia and the United Nations — have been holding talks in recent days in hopes of persuading the Palestinians to drop the UN bid.

Tony Blair, the Middle East envoy and former British prime minister, says Palestinians themselves would be better served by negotiations.

"I think what we will be looking at over the next few days is a way of putting together something that allows their claims and legitimate aspirations of statehood to be recognized, whilst actually renewing the only thing that’s going to produce a state, which is a negotiation directly between the two sides."

En route to New York on Monday, Abbas said he sees no contradiction between negotiations and going to the UN. He also suggested time has run out for the international community to persuade him to abandon the UN bid.


Readers weigh in on the Palestinians' bid:  

"It's time to give Palestinians a seat at the table. It's time to move forward." – Best Username   

"Forget it — plain and simple!" – KenDavies

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Proposals for a new framework for talks with Israel were unacceptable, said Abbas, who wants the negotiations to be based on the pre-1967 war frontiers and a halt of all Israeli settlement construction on occupied land.

Although the Palestinian Authority's plan for now is to apply to the Security Council for UN membership, Abbas suggested this could change in favour of seeking General Assembly approval as a non-member observer state.

He has cautioned Palestinians against high expectations for the membership bid, but in the West Bank, authorities have been preparing for the worst, the CBC’s Paul Hunter reported. Palestinian police spent Sunday practising how to control the violence many fear could erupt if the bid for recognition fails.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who will be in New York for the General Assembly meetings, has already said Canada considers the  Palestinian plan to seek UN membership "not helpful" and will oppose it."  

With files from The Associated Press