Middle East

Palestine and US ready to talk peace – but America says it ‘won’t chase’ Abbas

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 February, 2018, 1:37am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 February, 2018, 2:11am

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has called for an international conference to be held by mid-2018 to pave the way for recognition of Palestinian statehood as part of a wider Middle East peace process.

His rare address to the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday was followed by US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley’s reply that US negotiators were prepared to talk.

However, she warned Abbas “we will not chase after you.”

US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt sat behind Haley at the Security Council meeting. Kushner and Greenblatt are working on a new Middle East peace plan.

Abbas did not stay in the council chamber for Haley’s remarks.

In his address to the Security Council, Abbas said he would step up efforts to achieve full UN membership for Palestine and urged countries that have yet to recognise it to do so.

“To solve the Palestine question, it is essential to establish a multilateral international mechanism emanating from an international conference,” Abbas said.

His address to the top UN body came amid simmering global concern over Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

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Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem infuriated the Palestinians, who declared that Washington could no longer play a role as lead mediator in the Middle East peace process.

Abbas said his proposed conference should lead to full UN membership for the state of Palestine, mutual recognition of Israel and Palestine, and the creation of a new international mechanism to reach a settlement.

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

The address came just weeks after US Ambassador Nikki Haley launched a scathing attack on Abbas and accused him of lacking the courage needed for peace.

Haley was accompanied to Tuesday’s council meeting by Jason Greenblatt, the US envoy for Middle East peace, and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in law and adviser on Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

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The Trump administration is preparing a new peace plan even though chances for agreement appear dim.

The Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state and UN resolutions call on countries to refrain from moving their embassies to the city until its status is resolved in an Israeli-Palestinian deal.

In December, the General Assembly voted 128-9, with 35 abstentions, to reject the US decision to recognise Jerusalem.

That vote in the 193-nation assembly came after 14 of the 15 council members voted in favour of a similar measure. The United States vetoed that draft resolution. 

Tensions have also flared over the US decision to cut funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

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The United Nations granted Palestine the status of a non-member observer state in 1992, but an upgrade to full membership would require unanimous backing from the Security Council – an unlikely outcome, given the near-certainly of a US veto.