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Obama to urge Abbas to drop bid for Palestinian statehood

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas will present a letter to the UN Security Council later, seeking recognition for an independent state.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas

US PRESIDENT BARACK Obama is to meet with the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas later today, in a bid to persuade Abbas to end his bid for full UN membership.

Both Obama and his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy will address the opening session of the UN General Assembly today, and both will heap pressure on Abbas to instead seek upgraded status for Palestine.

Obama is also due to hold separate meetings with the Palestinian leader and the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he tries to push for a new round of peace talks.

Abbas will today deliver a formal letter of intent concerning a request to the UN Security Council for full Palestinian membership and statehood. The Guardian reports that a vote on the issue will then be stalled to allow peace talks to take place. Obama will ask Abbas not to push for an actual Council vote, while the US has said it would veto.

The delay would give international peacemakers time to produce a statement that would be the basis for the resumed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Both Israel and Washinton have said that a Palestinian state must be delivered through negotiations. In a televised address in the West Bank city of Ramallah last week Abbas said that a “sovereign, independent state” is the “legitimate right” of the Palestinian people.

The US has said that it can’t stop the Palestinian president from launching his case for the Security Council’s approval of the statehood effort, but White House deputy national security advisor has said that Obama will tell Abbas that “we do not believe that this is the best course of action for achieving Palestinian aspirations”.

Nicolas Sarkozy met with Abbas yesterday and diplomats close to the talks said the French leader told the Palestinian leader that he would outline a proposal for the Palestinians to seek upgraded status with the General Assembly, where no member holds a veto. The resolution would be designed to make Palestine a non-member observer state, raising its status from that of permanent observer.

The new approach being considered would see the “quartet” of Mideast peace mediators — the U.S., European Union, United Nations and Russia — issue a statement addressing both Palestinian and Israeli concerns and setting a timetable for a return to the long-stalled peace talks, officials close to the diplomatic talks said.

Israel would have to accept its pre-1967 borders with land exchanges as the basis for a two-state solution, and the Palestinians would have to recognize Israel’s Jewish character if they were to reach a deal quickly, officials close to the talks said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing diplomacy.

The simmering situation is far from the scenario Obama envisioned when he spoke at the U.N. one year ago.

“We should reach for what’s best within ourselves,” Obama said last September in pushing for negotiated agreement on a sovereign Palestinian state. “If we do, when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations.”


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- Additional reporting by AP

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