UN envoy: Abbas threat a wake-up call

Abbass decision came f

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Tuesday and expressed his backing for the beleaguered Palestinian leader following his declaration that he will not run in the next Palestinian elections. "I conveyed to President Abbas the secretary-general's strong support for his leadership. But it is clear that this precious asset is now in jeopardy. I believe President Abbas' announcement last week is a loud and clear wake-up call," he said. "I repeat the secretary-general's call for a freeze on all settlement activity. Either we go forward decisively to a two state solution in accordance with Security Council resolutions, or we risk sliding backwards." Earlier, France's foreign minister urged Abbas not to step down and vowed to press that point during a trip to Israel and the Palestinian Authorities in the coming days. "First of all, the Palestinian president must not resign," Bernard Kouchner said on France-Inter radio. Abbas announced last week that he would not run for another term in an election scheduled for January, citing deadlocked efforts to revive peace talks with Israel. Kouchner, who says Abbas's departure would be a threat to peace, will travel "in the coming days" to the region and talk with Abbas and other regional leaders. Also speaking on the topic, Quartet envoy Tony Blair said on Tuesday that Abbas's decision not to run for re-election is not a political stunt, but rather a result of "deep frustration." Nonetheless, in an interview with Army Radio he opined that an agreement between Israel and the PA, under Abbas's leadership, would be the best possible result for the Palestinian people. "The overwhelming majority of Palestinians would back a two-state solution," he said. Such a deal would also weaken Hamas's popularity in the Gaza Strip, the former UK prime minister added. During a short visit to the region, Blair went on to tell Army Radio that he was set to visit Jenin, where he said "the economy is growing." The city, once known as the West Bank "suicide-bomber capital," recently launched a joint tourism project with the Gilboa Regional Council, in an effort to shake its old stigmas. He expressed support for stimulating the economy in other West Bank cities, concluding the interview by saying he was "looking forward to [watching] the seeds of hope" sprout. Ron Friedman contributed to this report