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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Abbas calls for Middle East peace conference by middle of year

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday called for a Middle East peace conference by the middle of this year as he spoke before the UN Security Council for the first time since 2009.

Jared Kusher, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East envoy, was among the American delegation listening to Mr Abbas, who reiterated that it was now impossible for the United States to solve the region's problems after recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

He also heard Mr Abbas rail against Mr Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, while demanding a return to the principles of the Oslo Accords and a two-state solution.

“To solve the Palestine question, it is essential to establish a multilateral international mechanism emanating from an international conference and in line with international law and the relevant resolutions,” said Mr Abbas as he set out his vision of a three-point peace plan.

His proposal signals increasing Palestinian frustration with Washington and its role as peace broker at a time of rising tension throughout the region triggered by Mr Trump’s unpredictable presence in the White House.

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Mr Abbas said the US recognition of Jerusalem was illegal and that America could no longer be trusted as a neutral partner.

“The United States has contradicted itself and contradicted its own commitments and has violated international law and the relevant resolutions with its decision regarding Jerusalem,” he said. “So, it has become impossible today for one country or state alone to solve a regional or international conflict without the participation of other international partners.”

Instead he said a peace conference should lead to full UN membership for Palestine, mutual recognition of Israel and Palestine and set up a mechanism to deal with final settlement issues — including the status of Jerusalem, water, security, settlements, prisoners and the fate of refugees — as set out in the Oslo Accords.

Mr Kushner is already working on a new proposal for peace although few details have emerged.

Mr Abbas’s rival proposal could lead to a greater role for the other four permanent council members — Britain, France, China and Russia — or an expanded diplomatic effort with Arab countries and others.

He said his peace plan included the full implementation of the Arab Peace Initiative and that all parties refrain from unilateral actions, particularly settlement building.

He repeated the Palestinian demand that East Jerusalem become the capital of a future state, while totting up the 705 General Assembly resolutions and 86 Security Council resolutions that have been passed in his state’s favour.

“However, in spite of all of this, the international community has failed to implement the relevant UN resolutions, even to this day,” he said.

Among them are a string of UN resolutions calling on states not to move their embassies to Jerusalem until the status of the city is decided by an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

In December, the General Assembly voted 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions, to reject Washington’s decision to recognise Jerusalem.

Fourteen of the 15 security council members backed a similar resolution but it was vetoed by the US.

The Palestinian president immediately left the council chamber following his address on Tuesday, leaving Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon to complain that he was once again "running away" from dialogue.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the Security Council spent a disproportionate amount of time listening to Israel-Palestine issues.

She set out a choice of two paths for the Palestinian leadership, between “hateful rhetoric” and “incitement to violence” or negotiation and compromise.

Ms Haley called on Mr Abbas to be courageous enough to move on from anger at the decision to relocate the US embassy.

“You don’t have to like that decision, you don’t have to praise that decision,” she said. “You don’t even have to accept it. But know this: That decision will not change.”

Mr Trump has repeatedly said his administration is working up a new peace plan. He has remained vague on details even as he has threatened to cut funding to allies who opposed his move on Jerusalem and reduced money for the UN agency dedicated to Palestinian refugees.

He accused the Palestinians of "disrespecting" the US when Mr Abbas refused to meet Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to the region last month.

"We give them hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and support," he said, before warning "that money's not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace".