'Abbas confirms statehood bid to Arab League chief'

PA president tells Nabil Elaraby, foreign ministers in Cairo the Palestinians will go forward with UN bid on November 29.

Abbas gives speech marking Yasser Arafat's death 370 (R) (photo credit: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters)
Abbas gives speech marking Yasser Arafat's death 370 (R)
(photo credit: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday told Arab foreign ministers gathered in Cairo that the Palestinian Authority will go forward with its bid for observer status at the United Nations on November 29, pan-Arab news outlet Al Arabiya reported.
According to Al Arabiya, Abbas engaged in talks with Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby, agreeing to present the request for statehood on November 29.
Abbas called for support from Arab states, stating: "If it is possible to start talks on the following day (after acquiring the observer status) then we are ready for that,” Al Arabiya reported.
Abbas is set to meet with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi in Cairo on Tuesday as part of an ongoing effort to recruit support for the Palestinian "non-member" state bid at the UN, according to Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm.
Abbas is also set to travel to Switzerland and France on Wednesday.
A Fatah official said that all the Arab countries have promised to vote in favor of the Palestinian application to the UN General Assembly.
Confirmation of the bid follows a meeting in Saudi Arabia for talks on the UN statehood bid between Abbas, King Abdullah and senior government officials.
Abbas’s visit to Saudi Arabia comes as part of his efforts to secure Arab backing for his plan to ask the UN to upgrade the Palestinian status, a move that is seen as a de facto recognition of statehood.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority denounced threats to impose sanctions on the Palestinians in response to their effort to upgrade their status at the UN to that of a non-member state.
Muhammad Shtayyeh, a member of the Fatah Central Committee who is closely associated with Abbas, said he saw no reason why the Palestinians should be punished for embarking on a “peaceful and legitimate step.”
His remarks came during a press conference at the PLO offices in al-Bireh.
The UN General Assembly can’t grant the Palestinians full membership in the international body, but the upgrade will increase their rights and possibly allow them to pursue Israelis at the International Criminal Court.
“Going to the UN is a peaceful and legitimate step,” Shtayyeh explained. “We are going to an international organization that is a symbol for peace and security.”
Israel has opposed the unilateral move, urging the Palestinians to return immediately to the negotiating table. It has warned that it is dangerous to the prospects of peace to separate the issue of Palestinian statehood from a negotiated twostate solution.
Jerusalem has threatened to take retaliatory measures against the PA, should it make good on their pledge to head to the UN. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz has threatened economic sanctions, including withholding tax fees.
“We disapprove of the talk about sanctions. It is shameful to talk about sanctions. This is the first step toward political independence and the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital,” Shtayyeh said.
He said that Palestinians could not understand the “frantic campaign” being waged against the PA’s statehood bid.
“This is an insult to the UN because it is an organization that was established to defend peace and stability in the world,” he said. “It should be taken into consideration that Israel was established according to a UN resolution.”
Shtayyeh said that Palestinians were being asked to choose between bread and freedom.
The decision to go to the UN is aimed at exerting pressure on Israel to stop its measures on the ground and return to the negotiating table, he said.
On Sunday, Abbas rejected US President Barack Obama’s request to refrain from going to the UN, PA officials in Ramallah said. Obama made the request during a phone call with Abbas, the officials said.
Obama stressed that he did not support the Palestinians taking unilateral steps at the United Nations.
Khaled Abu Toameh, Hilary Leila Krieger and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.