US 'remains committed' to renewing Israeli-PA talks

Following Abbas vow to seek full UN membership for Palestinian state, US focused on reaching "a comprehensive peace agreement."

By REUTERS
September 17, 2011 01:37
1 minute read.
US State Departement Spokesman Mark Toner

US State Departement Spokesman Mark Toner 311. (photo credit: US State Department)

 
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The US State Department on Friday said that Washington remains committed to getting Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table following a televised speech by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in which he vowed to demand full membership for a Palestinian state at the United Nations.

"What we are focused on is ... getting them back to the table so that they can address the many final status issues and reach a comprehensive peace agreement that results in two states living side by side," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

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Column One: The Palestinian obsession

The United States has firmly opposed the PA initiative, arguing that a Palestinian state can only be created through direct negotiations.

The Palestinians say almost 20 years of on-off direct talks on statehood envisaged by interim peace accords have hit a dead end for reasons including Israel's refusal to stop expanding settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

The last round of the US-backed talks between Abbas and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu collapsed nearly a year ago when the Jewish state declined to extend a partial moratorium on West Bank settlement building.

Washington has said it will veto any statehood resolution in the Security Council. Some US politicians have said they will try to cut American aid to the Palestinians, totaling some $500 million a year, if they refuse to back down.

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If Washington does veto the resolution, as expected, the Palestinians could then go to the full UN General Assembly. It does not have the power to grant them full membership, but could recognize Palestine as a non-member state.

Such a move would give the Palestinians possible access to other international bodies, including the International Criminal Court, from where it could seek to sue Israel over its presence in the West Bank.

Abbas said there was no decision on alternative options the Palestinians could pursue in the event of failure.

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