Blair presses Palestinians to restart talks

Ex-British PM and Quartet’s special envoy says it is Palestinians’ “right” to come to UN, but negotiations are a must.

Tony Blair at UN
Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu has said that the Palestinian bid for UN membership ‘will fail’ [Reuters]

The diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East hopes to clinch a deal for the Palestinians to get greater UN recognition while meeting US and Israeli objections and convincing Palestinians to resume peace talks, special envoy Tony Blair has said.

The comments by Blair, the former British prime minister, come as Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, arrived in New York City on Monday.

Abbas, held talks with Ban ki-Moon, the UN secretary general, later in the day, will address the UN General Assembly on Friday and put his proposal for full UN membership for Palestine to the Security Council.

Blair told Al Jazeera’s Abderrahim Foukara on Sunday that it was “the Palestinian right to come to the UN”, but that “whatever happens at the UN, let’s find a balanced way that we can restart the negotiations.”


Tony Blair denies he is supporting the Israeli position

“You can pass whatever resolution you want or have any amount of recognition at the UN, unless you also have change on the ground that is negotiated – because this is the only way it will happen, you’re going to end up in a situation where we end up again frustrated,” he said.

In a separate interview with ABC television, Blair explained: “What we will be looking for over the next few days is a way of putting together something that allows their claims and legitimate aspirations for statehood to be recognised, whilst actually renewing the only thing that’s going to produce a state – which is a negotiation directly between the two sides.”

Blair represents the Quartet, which is made up of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

While Russia has said that it supports the Palestinian bid, the US has threatened to veto it.

Twelve months ago, US President Barack Obama said he wanted to see a Palestinian state at the UN within a year.

Blair denied reports that the Quartet’s position on the matter is in support of Israel.

“I’m not trying to bide time for anyone, what we’ve been doing for the past three years is supporting the Palestinian state building,” he told Al Jazeera.

Diplomatic scramble

The US and Europe have stepped up a diplomatic scramble to avoid a UN showdown on the Palestinian bid.

US, European Union, Russian and UN officials want to craft a face-saving way out of the looming confrontation.

Britain, France and Germany will have decisive votes on the council. All of their UN envoys say that no decision on how to vote has been taken because they have not seen a Palestinian resolution.

Al Jazeera’s Cath Turner, reporting from New York, said: “There is a chance that the UN Security Council can take up to 35 days to think about the Palestinian application, [but] that is not what the Palestinians want.”

“Palestinians are standing firm,” she added.

Predicting failure

Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, said that the Palestinian bid for UN membership has no chance of success and that they would ultimately seek renewed talks.

“As a result of the actions of the United States, which is working closely with us, and of other governments with which we and the Americans are working, I predict that this attempt will fail,” Netanyahu said.

“In the end, after the smoke clears and after everything that happens at the UN, the Palestinians will come to their senses, I hope, drop these moves to bypass negotiations and return to the table in order to bring peace to us and our neighbours.”

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Netanyahu compared the Security Council to the UN’s government, while the General Assembly, he said, was more like a parliament.

“There you can pass almost any resolution,” he said. “They could decide that the sun rises in the west and sinks in the east, but it doesn’t have the same weight and the same importance as the Security Council.”

Netanyahu has said he too will go to the UN to explain Israel’s opposition to the Palestinian move.

Like Abbas, he is to speak on September 23, a government official said.

The White House says Netanyahu is also likely to meet Obama in New York.

Peace talks between Israel and Palestinians ground to a halt in September 2010 when Israel failed to renew a partial freeze on settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.

Since then, the Palestinians have refused to return to talks as long as Israel builds on occupied territory.

The Palestinians say they are going to the UN out of frustration with the deadlock in the peace process.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies