|Abbas, left, is in Turkey in a bid to shore up support for a Palestinian plan to seek UN membership (Reuters)
Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has said the Palestinians’ bid for membership in the United Nations was forced upon them by Israel’s refusal to halt settlement building and end its occupation.
“We are going to the United Nations because we are forced to, it is not a unilateral action,” Abbas said on Saturday at a conference in Turkey. “What is unilateral is Israeli settlement.”
Abbas made his remarks in Istanbul, where Palestinian diplomats are meeting to work out the final details of their plan to seek recognition as an independent state this September, when the UN holds its General Assembly.
Al Jazeera’s Tony Birtley, reporting from Istanbul, said it will be a difficult process for the Palestinian leadership.
“This underlies more than anything the deep-rooted frustration of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority that the peace process has gone nowhere for the last year,” our correspondent said.
“What they are trying to do is get recognition by the Security Council. If that doesn’t work, they will go to the General Assembly and use a rarely-used mechanism to get the General Assembly to vote. They will need a two-thirds majority. They have got 115 people to recognise Palestine but they will need another 13.”
US veto threat
The US has said it will veto any move for recognition in the UN.
Palestinians will seek recognition along a border that predates the 1967 war between Israel and neighbouring countries, including the territory that encompasses the occupied West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
US President Barack Obama has said that any negotiations to establish a Palestinian state have to begin on the pre-1967 borders, but Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has rejected that condition.
“We have not been able to return to negotiations with Netanyahu because of his refusal to negotiate on the basis of the 1967 borders and to stop settlement,” Abbas said at the meeting, attended by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Frozen peace talks
Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been on hold since late September, shortly after Washington relaunched the first direct negotiations between the two sides for nearly two years.
The talks ground to a halt when Israel’s partial freeze on settlement construction expired and Netanyahu declined to renew it.
The Palestinians say they will not hold talks while Israel builds on land they want for a future state.
Netanyahu blames the Palestinians for the deadlock.
“Our first, second and third choice is to return to negotiations,” Abbas said on Saturday.
“Like the rest of the peoples of the world … we wish to be members of the General Assembly, members of the UN; no more, no less.”
A senior Palestinian official told the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity that preparations for the UN plan would be completed on August 4, during a meeting of an Arab monitoring committee in Doha, attended by Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
An official letter would be sent to the UN during the first week of August, he added.
“To get significant results we have to speak with one voice,” Abbas told his audience, adding that the decision to seek UN membership would have the backing of a large consensus, including his Fatah movement and Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip.
“God willing, Palestinian reconciliation will be achieved before we go to the UN,” Abbas said, referring to a formal end to years of enmity between the two.
Fatah and Hamas agreed to mend their relationship on April 27 but have yet to implement the deal.
Abbas said that 118 countries have already recognised the Palestinian state within the borders that preceded Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in June 1967 and that the total would rise to 130 by September.
A joint Palestinian-Israeli poll last month showed that 65 per cent of Palestinian respondents supported the UN campaign.