x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Palestinians to seek full UN membership in September

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas tells PLO central council: ¿We are going to the Security Council to seek full membership in the UN and recognition of Palestine on the 1967 borders.'

RAMALLAH // The Palestinians will approach the UN Security Council in September to seek full UN membership, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said yesterday.

"We are going to the Security Council through a request to the secretary general of the United Nations to seek full membership in the UN and recognition of Palestine on the 1967 borders," he said.

Mr Abbas made the remarks in an address to the PLO Central Council, which is meeting in Ramallah to endorse the United Nations membership bid.

He told the council that 122 nations had already recognised a Palestinian state on the lines that existed before the 1967 Six Day War, which would include the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.

Mr Abbas insisted that seeking UN membership did not contradict a commitment to negotiations, adding that the international community, including the Middle East Quartet of peacemakers, had proved incapable of pressurising Israel to halt settlement construction and accept the 1967 lines as a basis for peace talks.

"The choice of peace is our choice," he said. "Our first, second and third choice is peaceful negotiations.

"But after the failure of the Quartet to lay out foundations for the negotiations, which are a halt to settlement building and using the 1967 borders as a basis for the Palestinian state, it is now too late for negotiations," he said.

"It is too late, there is no time - we are going to the UN."

The meeting of the PLO Central Council comes five days after Mr Abbas convened a gathering of Palestinian diplomats in Istanbul to finalise the strategy for the membership bid.

The Central Council is the PLO's most important decision-making body in the absence of the Palestinian National Council, the parliament-in-exile, which rarely meets.

Palestinian officials say they are not planning on unilaterally proclaiming a state as they did in Algiers in 1988, nor will they seek recognition from the UN as a whole.

Instead, they will continue to work for endorsement on a state-by-state basis, while applying for membership in the global body.

Approaching the Security Council would be the only way for the Palestinians to gain full membership in the UN.

But officials in Ramallah have indicated that they might also consider seeking General Assembly backing for an upgrade from their current observer status to that of a non-member state.

Such an upgrade would allow the Palestinians to join all the UN agencies, including the World Health Organisation, the child welfare agency UNICEF and the world heritage body UNESCO.

It could also provide an alternative for the Palestinians if the United States vetoes its bid for membership in the Security Council, as Washington has already threatened to do.

On Tuesday, the UN's special envoy for the peace process told the Security Council that the Palestinians were "ready to assume the responsibilities of statehood at any point in the near future."

Robert Serry called on Israel "to do more to empower its moderate, committed and peaceful Palestinian partner," and warned that the deadlock in peace talks could have grave consequences.

"Without a credible political path forward, accompanied by more far-reaching steps on the ground, the viability of the Palestinian Authority and its statebuilding agenda, and, I fear, of the two state solution itself cannot be taken for granted," he said.