Abbas: Decision on UN bid will take weeks, not months

PA president expresses optimism about statehood application; says Security Council member states no longer "unenthusiastic."

September 24, 2011 18:28
3 minute read.
PA President Abbas gives letter to Ban Ki-moon

PA President Abbas gives letter to Ban Ki-moon 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Eric Thayer)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday he expected the Security Council to finish debating his nation's application for full UN membership within weeks, not months.

His comments came as reaction to speculations that the Security Council could potentially sit on the statehood application for a prolonged period of time in order to avoid voting on the controversial request.

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Speaking to journalists on his plane back from the General Assembly in New York, where he presented the request, Abbas said Security Council members had initially appeared unenthusiastic about the idea of discussing the application.

But he said the mood appeared to change after he delivered a speech to the General Assembly on Friday, during which he pressed the Palestinian case for an independent state alongside Israel.

The United States, Israel's closest ally, has said it will block the move. Both governments say direct peace talks are the correct way for Palestinians to pursue peace. Washington holds veto power in the 15-member Security Council.

The Palestinian Authority wants the United Nations Security Council to decide on their bid for full membership of the world body within a fortnight, a leading official in the Fatah movement of Abbas said on Saturday.

Apart from the US veto threat, it was also unclear if the required nine of the body's 15 members would support the bid.

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki told national radio that officials were still hoping to garner the required votes.

"Consultations continue, especially with Gabon, Nigeria and Bosnia-Herzegovina, which have yet to define their position," Maliki was quoted as saying.

Abbas told the reporters accompanying him of a tense atmosphere during the week: "We held dozens of meetings with dozens of delegations which were trying to avert our going to the Security Council," Abbas said.

Talking about a return to peace talks with Israel, Abbas said: "We will not deal with any initiative which does not contain a halt to settlement or the '67 borders".

PA could potentially ask for upgrade in status from General Assembly

Alternate to the Security Council, the Palestinians, who currently have observer status at the UN, could ask for the General Assembly to vote to upgrade them to a non-member state which would allow them membership of a number of UN agencies.

The General Assembly vote requires only a simple majority of the current 193 member nations, seemingly an easy proposition for the Palestinians.

In his speech to the General Assembly on Friday after presenting the request, Abbas said: "I do not believe that anyone with a shred of conscience can reject our application ... and our admission as an independent state."

But Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who spoke shortly after Abbas, said peace could be achieved only through negotiations and dismissed the world body as a "theater of the absurd."

Shortly after the two men ended their speeches, the quartet of Middle East peace negotiators - the United States, Russia, the European Union and the UN - issued a call for a return to direct peace talks which US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said was a "concrete proposal".

"The United States is very pleased that the Quartet was able to issue a statement today with a concrete and detailed proposal to begin a negotiation between the Israelis and the Palestinians without delay or pre-condition," she said.

Abbas accepts negotiations are still necessary, but argues statehood will put Palestinians on a more equal footing. Israel sees the UN bid as an attempt to erode its own legitimacy.

Palestinians want to establish a state in the Gaza Strip, a coastal enclave controlled by Islamist Hamas who are opposed to peace talks, and in the West Bank with east Jerusalem as the capital, land Israel captured in a 1967 Middle East War. staff contributed to this report.

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