Ehud Barak 311 (R).
(photo credit: Reuters)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in New York on Sunday in a last ditch effort to prevent the Palestinian Authority from seeking membership for a Palestinian state in the United Nations this week.
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The meeting came as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday headed to New York at the head of a large delegation of officials.
Abbas and the Palestinian delegates flew from Amman, where they were seen off by Arab ambassadors to Jordan.
The PA delegation consisted of a number of top PLO and Fatah officials, including Nabil Sha’ath, Saeb Erekat, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, Yasser Abed Rabbo, Mohammed Shtayyeh and Azzam al-Ahmed.
On the eve of the UN vote, Chief PLO negotiator Erekat reassured Palestinians that the establishment of a Palestinian state would not "cancel the right of return for Palestinian refugees" to their original homes inside Israel.
Erekat also stressed that the planned statehood bid would not affect the status of the PLO as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people."
"The request to the UN to accept Palestine as a full member does not cancel the PLO or the right of return," Erekat told the Jordanian newspaper Ad-Dustour
"Many are asking about the fate of the PLO and the right of return of Palestinian refugees to the 1948 territories once the UN approves the membership request," Erekat said.
He said that the PA leadership, in cooperation with the Arab League and Qatar, has sought legal advice from all around the world about these issues.
The application to the UN will be submitted by Abbas in his capacity as chairman of the PLO Executive Committee and President of Palestine, Erekat pointed out. "The PLO will remain the party in charge of negotiations over the final-status issues."
He added that UN recognition of a Palestinian state would not cancel the status of the PLO as the "sole legitimate" representative of all Palestinians, including the refugees. Erekat stressed that in any case the statehood bid would not be at the expense of any of the Palestinian basic principles, especially the "right of return."
According to Erekat, the statehood bid has at least six advantages: Palestine within the 1967 "borders" with Jerusalem as its capital would become a state under occupation by another member of the UN and Israelis would no longer be able to say that these are disputed territories; the reference for the negotiations with Israel would focus only on a setting a timetable for an Israeli withdrawal; the Palestinian people alone would have the right to self-determination; UN conventions oblige all members to help a country that is occupied by one of the members; Palestine would have access to all UN bodies, such as the international criminal court which, the status of the Palestinian prisoners in Israel would change and they would become, after the UN recognition of a Palestinian state, "prisoners of war."
The conflict with Israel can't end without the "right of return" for the refugees and the return of the Palestinian prisoners to their families and people, Erekat told the newspaper.