Palestinians seek date with freedom at UN

Palestinians seek date with freedom at UN

UNITED NATIONS — Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas on Monday vowed to submit a bid for UN recognition of a Palestinian state this week, amid warnings that sticking to the status quo could fuel “an explosion of violence.”

Despite strong opposition from Israel and the United States, Abbas met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to tell him he would go ahead with the controversial move on Friday.

“We are looking for this week being a week that produces an outcome that we can use to reaffirm our cause and bring us closer to our date with freedom,” Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad said after talks with Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere.

Stoere said donor nations meeting on Sunday “concluded that the Palestinian institutions are now above the threshold for running a state.”

But he highlighted concerns about “the vulnerability of the economy due to the effects of the occupation on the ground.... There’s a shortfall for 2011 which we need to cover.”

“We have hammered out a very solid proposal on the economy, a very solid birth certificate to the institutions of the PA. Were there a state, the Palestinians could run it, that’s the bottom line,” Stoere added.

Abbas arrived in New York early Monday to join 130 heads of state and government attending the annual UN General Assembly, also to be addressed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“President Abbas informed the secretary general of his intention to submit to the secretary general on Friday an application for membership in the United Nations,” said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.

In response, Ban “stressed his desire to ensure that the international community and the two parties can find a way forward for resuming negotiations within a legitimate and balanced framework,” he told reporters.

The United States has threatened to veto any approach by the Palestinians to the UN Security Council seeking backing for state recognition.

“We remain where we were on the inadvisability of unilateral actions that will bring the Palestinians no closer to the statehood they seek,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday.

“We generally as a rule support the actions that move the parties closer together and do not support the things that move them further apart.”

Carney also refused to divulge whether US President Barack Obama had made any calls to intervene in the intense diplomatic efforts to stave off the Palestinian bid over the weekend.

Abbas admitted he has been under international pressure, and warned: “The Palestinian people and their leadership will pass through very difficult times after the Palestinian approach to the United Nations through the Security Council to seek full membership for the Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital.”

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe warned of the risk of an “explosion of violence” in the Middle East if the Palestinian conflict is not resolved, saying the Palestinian status quo was “neither acceptable nor tenable.”

“The relaunch of the peace process is needed,” Juppe told the Council on Foreign Relations think-tank in New York.

He said he planned to meet with Abbas later Monday. “I will ask him what is his strategy? Going to the Council of Security and what after that?

“We have to avoid such a confrontation. We have to find a balanced solution,” Juppe said.

Abbas was also to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was to hold talks with Lavrov, after she met Sunday with European Union foreign affairs representative Catherine Ashton.

The United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations make up the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East, whose envoy Tony Blair is seeking to mediate an accord.

Blair is seeking a statement that would advance recognition of a Palestinian state while drawing the Palestinians back into direct talks.

“I think there is a way of avoiding a confrontation,” the former British prime minister said Sunday.

Israel says the UN bid is a Palestinian attempt to circumvent direct negotiations, which ground to a halt in September 2010 after Israel ended a moratorium on settlement construction in the occupied territories.

If the Palestinians do not secure nine votes from the 15 members, any resolution would fail and the US veto would not be necessary, reducing any embarrassment 12 months after Obama said he wanted to see a Palestinian state at the United Nations within a year.

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