Palestinian Authority president and head of the Fatah movement Mahmud Abbas
Palestinian Authority president and head of the Fatah movement Mahmud Abbas gestures as he arrives to attend a Fatah "Revolutionary Council" meeting in the Palestinian West Bank city of Ramallah on October 26. Abbas on Thursday urged his Fatah party to think carefully about where the Palestinians are headed and the future of the Palestinian Authority. © Abbas Momani - AFP/File
Palestinian Authority president and head of the Fatah movement Mahmud Abbas
AFP
Last updated: October 27, 2011

Fatah considers Palestinian Authority's future

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Thursday urged his Fatah party to think carefully about where the Palestinians are headed and the future of the Palestinian Authority.

In a speech to party's revolutionary council, meeting in the West Bank town of Ramallah, Abbas said it was important to address concerns that the Palestinian Authority had become defunct.

"Where are we going? That's what I said to (US) President (Barack) Obama," he said, according to a text of his address.

He said the council would discuss the next steps in the Palestinian bid for state membership of the United Nations, as well as a peace talks proposal from the international Quartet and the future of the Palestinian Authority.

Created in 1994 after the signing of the Oslo peace accords, the Palestinian Authority (PA) was intended to prepare for the creation of a Palestinian state after a final peace deal with Israel.

But with talks on hold and the Palestinians instead pursuing state membership at the UN, questions have increasingly been raised about the purpose of the PA.

"The people and Palestinian institutions are asking what the point of its continued existence is," Abbas said.

"We want to respond to this question, which will be one of the subjects we will discuss with our brother Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas chief," he added, referring to talks he is scheduled to hold with the Islamist leader.

Abbas and other senior Palestinians have said that if peace talks remain stalled, they might consider dismantling the PA entirely, although no serious steps towards doing so appear to have been taken.

Abbas also told the council, which is meeting through Friday, that he was determined to pursue full membership for a Palestinian state at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) despite a brewing storm over the issue.

The organisation is expected to approve the membership bid, which comes in parallel to Palestinian attempts to gain state membership at the United Nations, despite Israeli and US opposition.

US law requires Washington to cut funding to UNESCO if it accepts the Palestinian bid, which could seriously hamper the organisation's work.

But Abbas said Thursday he saw "no justification" for abandoning the bid.

"We will not renounce the demand for Palestine to become a member of UNESCO, where the battle is very intense," he said.

Israel's envoy to UNESCO, Education Minister Gideon Saar, met the organisation's head on Thursday in an attempt to head off the bid.

Saar called the Palestinian bid "part of the Palestinians' continuing effort to circumvent direct negotiations between the sides, which will only push peace and an end to the conflict further away," an education ministry statement said.

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