Abbas warns UN of ‘last chance’ for peace

Filed on September 27, 2013

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas warned the United Nations on Thursday that US-brokered peace talks offered the “last chance” as he demanded an agreement with Israel that permanently resolves all disputes.

Speaking before the UN General Assembly, Abbas urged no letup in international pressure on Israel to stop building settlements on Palestinian land.

“Time is running out, and the window of peace is narrowing and the opportunities are diminishing,” Abbas said.

“The current round of negotiations appears to be a last chance to realise a just peace,” he said.

The Palestinian leadership has frequently turned to the United Nations and the annual General Assembly summits to build momentum in hopes of influencing Israel.

The Palestinian issue has had a comparatively lower profile at the latest UN General Assembly, which comes less than two months after the two sides returned to talks following a three-year lapse.

Abbas, who was given an ovation, began his speech by voicing pride at his introduction as “president of the state of Palestine” — following a UN vote in November to grant it observer status.

Israel, which opposes the observer status, did not send officials to any speeches on Thursday as it fell on a Jewish holiday.

Abbas said the peace process with Israel — relaunched after exhaustive missions by US Secretary of State John Kerry — needed to result in a permanent peace.

“We refuse to enter into a vortex of a new interim agreement that becomes eternalised,” Abbas said.

“Our objective is to achieve a permanent and comprehensive agreement and a peace treaty between the states of Palestine and Israel that resolves all outstanding issues and answers all questions,” he said.

Abbas urged international action against Israeli settlements, praising the European Union decision to label products from the internationally condemned entities.

“The international community is asked to remain alert to condemn and stop any actions on the ground that would undermine negotiations,” Abbas said.

“I refer here, above all, to the continuation of settlement construction on our Palestinian land, particularly in Jerusalem,” he said.

Abbas said that occupation cannot “provide legitimacy.”

“Such policies may impose a weak stability, but they cannot prevent an inevitable explosion,” he said.

Kerry, in an earlier meeting on the Middle East at the United Nations, also called for a permanent settlement.

“All of the issues are on the table — territories, security, refugees, Jerusalem. All of the final status issues are on the table,” Kerry said.

Previous diplomatic efforts to reach a permanent peace in the Middle East have failed and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads a right-leaning coalition with members staunchly opposed to any concessions.

In an effort to sweeten the incentives for peace, the United States and its allies have sought to focus on the economic dividends of reaching a resolution in the highly emotive conflict.

Former British prime minister Tony Blair, who serves as an international envoy on Middle East peace, on Thursday unveiled a three-year plan aimed at spurring private sector growth in the Palestinian territories.

Israel announced at the United Nations that it was easing some restrictions on Palestinians.

Yuval Steinitz, the minister of intelligence and security affairs, said that Israel would grand 5,000 new permits for Palestinians to work in Israel

In his own United Nations speech, US President Barack Obama urged all nations “to get behind the pursuit of peace.”

Netanyahu is scheduled to address the United Nations next week and is widely expected to focus on urging a hard line on Iran.

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