x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Palestinians to go straight to UN Security Council to seek full UN membership

Mahmoud Abbas on collision course with President Barack Obama, who says US will veto move, as Israeli PM lines up speech to UN General Assembly to 'tell them things as they are.'

RAMALLAH // The Palestinians will go straight to the United Nations Security Council to seek full membership of the UN, the Palestinian Authority foreign minister Riyad Al Malki said yesterday.

The move puts the Palestinians on a collision course with the US president Barack Obama, who has said the United States would veto any such resolution.

If the 15-member Security Council rejects full UN membership, Palestinian officials are confident they have enough support in the General Assembly to attain non-voting member status, similar to that of the Vatican.

The US envoys David Hale and Dennis Ross were in Ramallah last night in an apparent 11th-hour effort to halt the UN bid.

They were also trying to persuade the PA president Mahmoud Abbas to return to negotiations with Israel.

Similar requests recently by the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and Tony Blair, envoy for the Middle East peace Quartet - the US, EU, Russia and the UN - failed.

Mr Al Malki said while the Palestinians would "see if any of them is carrying a credible offer" for a return to peace talks, they will "submit our application for full membership".

However, he also said that until the Palestinians officially submit their request to the UN, "we are open to any suggestions or ideas that could come from any side in order to renew negotiations on a firm basis with clear terms of reference, a clear timetable and clear guarantees".

He and other officials have said they will restart peace talks only if Israel halts Jewish settlement expansion and agrees to use the borders before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war as a basis for negotiations.

But Mr Al Malki said the Palestinians would submit their application to the UN if these conditions - not likely to be met by Israel's pro-settler government - go unheeded. The direct peace talks that started late last year quickly collapsed because Israel refused to stop building settlements.

The Palestinians' UN moves have alarmed Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who unexpectedly announced yesterday that he would address the United Nations next week and explain his objections to the Palestinian moves.

The Israeli leader had not been expected to attend the General Assembly's forthcoming annual session, its 66th, which he said "is not a place where Israel usually gets a fair hearing".

"I decided to bring this message in a speech that I shall make to the General Assembly of the UN, to which I shall travel next week," he said at a joint press conference with Petr Necas, the Czech prime minister. "I thought that the right thing to do would be to talk to the United Nations, tell them things as they are."

Mr Netanyahu, whose right-wing, pro-settler government has recently come under intense international scrutiny, said it was "important the Israeli prime minister attends" to bring "the Israeli message to the world".

"Israel wants peace, and for the past two and a half years has been attempting to conduct negotiations," he said.

Mr Netanyahu did not say if he would compromise on the issues of settlement expansion and the borders of a future Palestinian state.

hnaylor@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse and Associated Press