Abbas speaks at the UN General Assembly.
Abbas speaks at the UN General Assembly. Photo by AFP
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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addressed the United Nations General Assembly Thursday in New York, saying that the Palestinians refuse to enter into  "a vortex" of new interim agreements with Israel.

Speaking for the first time in the name of the State of Palestine, Abbas said raising the UN status of Palestine to observer state was not aimed at deligitimizing Israel, but "to consecrate the legitimacy of a state that must exist, which is Palestine."

He expressed his determination not to enter another interim agreement.

"Here, we reaffirm that we refuse to enter into a vortex of a new interim agreement that becomes eternalized, or to enter into transitional arrangements that will become a fixed rule rather than an urgent exception," he said. "Our objective is to achieve a permanent and comprehensive agreement and a peace treaty between the state of Palestine and Israel that resolves all outstanding issues and answers all questions, which allows us to officially declare an end of conflict and claims.”

He urged Israel to abandon "security obsessions and pretexts," and to "sow the seeds of good neighborliness."

Abbas labeled the "continuation of settlement construction on our Palestinian land, particularly in Jerusalem," as actions on the ground aimed at undermining negotiations.

"There is an international consensus - among the countries of the world, international and regional organizations and the International Court of Justice - on the illegality and illegitimacy of these settlements," he said.

He added that the European Union's position "with regard to settlement products is a positive model of what is possible to be done in order to ensure an environment supportive of the negotiations and the peace process."

Abbas called on the assembly to envision "a future in which Israel will gain the recognition of 57 Arab and Muslim countries and where the States of Palestine and Israel will coexist in peace."

The Palestinian leader ended his speech by saying that "time is running out, and the window of peace is narrowing and the opportunities are diminishing. The current round of negotiations appears to be a last chance to realize a just peace."

Over the past few weeks, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations Martin Indyk have been pressuring Abbas to moderate the tone of his speech and to avoid harsh attacks on Israel - as he has done in recent years at the UN. They have asked Abbas to send a positive message to the Israeli government and public.

U.S. Jewish leaders who met with Abbas last Tuesday in New York made a similar request. They said Abbas told them he was more hopeful now for peace than he was in the mid-2000s, and his aides told the Jewish leaders they would be pleased with the messages included in his speech.

The Palestinian president spoke with U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. He praised Abbas for consistently rejecting violence and being open to negotiations, and Obama said as far as the United States was concerned the borders of the Palestinian state should be based on the 1967 lines with agreed open swaps of land. Abbas told Obama he remained fully committed to the peace process and thanked the U.S. for supporting the process. He said the goal is an independent Palestinian state and the Palestinians will exert every effort possible to try to ensure the peace talks are a success.

Abbas asked Obama during their meeting to aid in guaranteeing that Israel releases an additional 250 Palestinian prisoners following the agreement to free 104 Palestinians jailed before the Oslo Accords were reached 20 years ago. Obama promised Abbas that the United States would help the Palestinians in their attempts to raise further international economic aid to stabilize the Palestinian Authority's budget.

Talks on Mideast peace resumed this summer following months of prodding by Secretary of State John Kerry. Obama plans to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week in Washington.

During Obama's speech on Tuesday, the U.S. president said that breakthroughs on both Israeli-Palestinian peace as well as on Iran's nuclear program would have "profound and positive impact" on the entire region.

Obama says no one is under the illusion that peace between Israelis and Palestinians will be easy. But he says Palestinians realize that negotiations are the best and only way to achieve a two-state solution. In his speech at the UNGA on Tuesday, Obama called for the international community to get behind the "pursuit of peace" between Israel and the Palestinians, saying leaders of both sides are willing to "take significant political risks."

"Friends of Israel, including the United States, must recognize that Israel's security as a Jewish and democratic state depend on the realization of a Palestinian state," Obama said.