The Palestinians appear determined to press on with their decades-held ambition for statehood
Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas meets with delegates from The Elders group to discuss the Palestinian bid for statehood recognition at the United Nations in New York. Abbas was just hours from submitting a historic request to the UN to admit Palestine as a member state despite fierce Israeli and US opposition. © Stan Honda - AFP
The Palestinians appear determined to press on with their decades-held ambition for statehood
Nasser Abou Bakr, AFP
Last updated: September 23, 2011

Abbas poised to hand over Palestinian UN state bid

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas was just hours from submitting a historic request to the United Nations to admit Palestine as a member state despite fierce Israeli and US opposition.

Abbas would hand over a formal application to UN chief Ban Ki-moon at a meeting set for 11:35 am (1535 GMT) Friday, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, Riyad Mansour confirmed to AFP.

Last-minute behind-the-scenes wrangling continued in New York, with a meeting of the Middle East Quartet dragging on late into Thursday night in an effort to hammer out a compromise.

"The Quartet envoys met for several hours today. They continue to work constructively, and will meet again this evening or tomorrow (Friday) morning," a US official said, asking to remain anonymous.

"We remain focused on supporting and helping the Israelis and Palestinians get back to negotiations."

But the Palestinians appeared determined not to be thrown off course by the promise of new talks as they pushed their decades-held ambition for statehood.

US President Barack Obama insisted in a speech to the UN General Assembly that kickstarting the negotiations with Israel -- which broke down a year ago after the Jewish state resumed settlement building -- was the only path towards a lasting peace.

But the address sparked angry demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza, with Palestinians accusing Obama of double standards for praising the Arab spring protests while seeking to block Palestinian dreams.

The speech did "not meet Palestinian hopes for the freedom and independence that the US administration is calling for for all people, except the Palestinians," said top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat.

"Despite this unfair position and all the pressure, president Abbas will submit tomorrow a request to admit the state of Palestine at the UN via the Security Council," he stressed.

The US administration seemed resigned Thursday to the fact that Abbas would snub their calls to drop his UN membership bid.

"I think it is important to note that regardless of what happens tomorrow in the United Nations, we remain focused on the day after," US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

She told reporters: "I remain committed to working with the parties to obtain the goal that the United States supports, that is a two-state solution."

The US would leave "no effort or stone unturned in our commitment to achieving that," she added.

Abbas was also due to address the UN General Assembly Friday and then leave New York swiftly for the Palestinian territories for consultations on the next step forward.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has called on Abbas to hold talks in New York, will also address the UN General Assembly on Friday, most likely in the afternoon.

The request for UN member state status will then go before the UN Security Council where the Palestinians have to win nine of the 15 member votes -- although the United States has already said it would veto the request.

Abbas's diplomatic advisor Majdi al-Khaldi said the Palestinians believed they would get the votes needed.

But he revealed: "Three of the members of the Security Council are under pressure from the Americans," citing "Bosnia, Gabon and Nigeria."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has proposed that the Palestinians should be temporarily granted non-member observer state status and set out a timetable for new negotiations with the aim of a deal within a year.

The European Union's president, Herman Van Rompuy, urged Israel and the Palestinians to resume direct talks in his address to the United Nations.

"Now, the resumption of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is the top priority," he said.

As a member of the Quartet -- alongside the UN, the United States and Russia -- the European Union is deeply engaged in the peace process, he said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron did not say how Britain would vote in any resolution on Palestinian statehood, but he said the Palestinians have a right to their own state and Israel to security.

"Peace will only come when Palestinians and Israelis sit down and talk to each other, make compromises, build trust and agree," he told the UN assembly.

Turkey meanwhile, which is embroiled in a diplomatic row with Israel, called for international "pressure" on Israel to make peace with the Palestinians.

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