World 20.2.2018 09:38 pm

Abbas calls for Mideast peace conference in rare UN speech

Abbas calls for Mideast peace conference in rare UN speech

Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas on Tuesday called for an international conference to be held later this year to launch a new, wider Middle East peace process and pave the way to Palestinian statehood.

In a rare address to the UN Security Council, Abbas presented a plan to revive Israeli-Palestinian talks under a new international peace process that would replace the US-led mediation.

President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital infuriated the Palestinians, who declared that Washington could no longer play a role as peace broker.

“To solve the Palestine question, it is essential to establish a multilateral international mechanism emanating from an international conference,” Abbas said.

Abbas said the conference would be attended by Israel and the Palestinians, regional players, the five permanent Security Council members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — and the diplomatic Quartet comprised of the European Union, Russia, the United States and the United Nations.

The gathering should lead to full UN membership for the state of Palestine, mutual recognition of Israel and Palestine, and the creation of a new international mechanism to reach a final settlement, he said.

The Palestinian leader immediately left the council chamber following his address, leading Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon to complain that Abbas was “running away” from dialogue.

– Path to ‘nowhere’ –

Addressing the council, US Ambassador Nikki Haley warned that turning to the United Nations and rejecting the US role in peace talks “will get the Palestinian people exactly nowhere toward the achievement of their aspirations.”

Haley was accompanied to the council meeting by Jason Greenblatt, the US envoy for Middle East peace and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser on Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

“Our negotiators are sitting right behind us, ready to talk,” she said, before adding: “But we will not chase after you. The choice, Mister President, is yours.”

The Israeli-Palestinian peace process has been deadlocked since a major push by the administration of Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama ended in failure in April 2014.

The Trump administration is preparing a new peace plan even though chances for agreement appear dim.

The Palestinians hope that greater international involvement in the peace process will serve to counter what they see as a US stance biased in favor of Israel after Trump’s decision on Jerusalem.

Israel, which often accuses the European Union and the United Nations of bias against it, is reluctant to accept any other mediator than the United States.

– US envoys meet ambassadors –

Greenblatt and Kushner later met with council ambassadors behind closed doors to discuss US peace efforts, but they did not provide specific details of the Trump plan.

“They talked about the progress in their efforts and contacts, and this was useful,” said French Ambassador Francois Delattre.

France, which hosted a Middle East peace conference in Paris last year, is ready to examine Abbas’s proposal for a revamped approach, but this “would not cast doubt” over the “indispensable” role of the United States, Delattre told the council.

The Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state and UN resolutions call on countries to refrain from moving their embassies to the city until its status is resolved in an Israeli-Palestinian deal.

In December, the General Assembly voted 128-9, with 35 abstentions, to reject the US decision to recognize Jerusalem.

That vote in the 193-nation assembly came after 14 of the 15 council members voted in favor of a similar measure. The United States vetoed that draft resolution.

Tensions have also flared over the US decision to cut funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

The United Nations granted Palestine non-member observer state status in 2012, but an upgrade to full membership would require unanimous backing from the Security Council — an unlikely outcome, given the near-certainty of a US veto.

 

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