Netanyahu calls for talks with Palestinians

Israeli PM requests meeting in New York to relaunch "direct negotiations" as Palestinians prepare for UN membership bid.

    Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, has called for a meeting in New York this week with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, to relaunch "direct negotiations".

    The call came as Abbas, already in New York for the annual UN General Assembly, prepared to submit a request for membership in the world body in a move staunchly opposed by Israel and the US.

    "The prime minister is interested in a meeting with the president of the Palestinian Authority in New York," Netanyahu's office said in a statement.

    "I call on the president of the Palestinian Authority to open up direct negotiations in New York and that they resume in Jerusalem and in Ramallah," it added.

    Israel and the US insist that only direct negotiations can resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

    Netanyahu, who flies to New York on Tuesday, is due to hold talks a day later with Barack Obama, the US president, and will address the General Assembly on Friday, the day Abbas has said he will submit his request for Palestinian membership in the world body.

    Diplomatic scramble

    The US Secretary of State said on Monday that her country was engaged in "extremely intensive" diplomacy to defuse tension over the Palestinian bid.

    "We continue to believe and are pressing the point that the only way to a two-state solution, which is what we support and want to see happen, is through negotiations," Hillary Clinton told reporters.

    Husam Zumlot, member of the Palestinian UN delegation, talks to Al Jazeera about bid

    The US has already announced it will use its veto to block the Palestinian bid in the Security Council.

    Abbas met Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, on Monday in New York. Martin Nesirky, a UN spokesman, said Ban had called on the Israelis and the Palestinians to resume negotiations "within a legitimate and balanced framework".

    On his flight to New York, Abbas told reporters that "all hell has broken out against" the Palestinians' pursuit of statehood.

    "We decided to take this step and all hell has broken out against us," he said, while adding that he would not be swayed.

    "From now until I give the speech [on Friday], we have only one choice: going to the Security Council. Afterwards, we will sit and decide."

    The Palestinian president was expected to meet Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister, later on Monday.

    "I will ask him what is his strategy? Going to the Council of Security and what after that?," Juppe told the Council on Foreign Relations think-tank in New York.

    "We have to avoid such a confrontation ... The relaunch of the peace process is needed."

    Quartet calls for negotiations

    Juppe's stance is in line with that of the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East - a group of senior diplomats and officials from the US, Russia, the European Union and the UN.

    Tony Blair, the Quartet's special envoy, told Al Jazeera 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"

    "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.

    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 and agencies


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