Abbas: No hope for peace talks, only option is UN recognition of statehood
At Arab League meeting in Doha, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says that there are 'no shared foundations' for negotiations with Israeli government.
The Palestinian president said on Saturday there were "no shared foundations" for peace talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and seeking UN recognition of Palestinian statehood was his only option.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, addressing an Arab League meeting in Doha, expressed concern that taking the diplomatic step opposed by the United States and Israel could result in financial sanctions and urged Arab states to fill any gap.
While he left room for a compromise, saying a resumption of peace talks on terms acceptable to the Palestinians would avoid the UN move, the remarks were some of Abbas's bleakest yet on the likelihood of more negotiations.
Abbas was speaking at a meeting of the Arab League's peace process committee convened in the wake of major Middle East policy speeches in Washington by U.S. President Barack Obama and Netanyahu.
The Palestinian leadership has said Netanyahu's ideas for peace with the Palestinians, outlined in a speech to the U.S. Congress on Tuesday, put more obstacles in the path of an already moribund peace process.
"We see from the conditions that Netanyahu laid out that there are no shared foundations ... for negotiations. Our fundamental option is to go to the United Nations," Abbas said in his opening remarks.
"This is no secret, we have said it to the Americans and the Europeans and the Israelis, our only option is to go to the United Nations," he said.
He expressed fear that the step would lead some states to "try to impose a siege upon us", though he did not say to which governments he was referring. "We hope that there will be a safety net from the Arab states," he said.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) headed by Abbas is dependent on financial support from international donors including the United States and the European Union.
It also relies on customs duties collected on its behalf by Israel, which triggered a financial crisis for the PA earlier this month when Israel temporarily withheld the funds following a reconciliation deal between the rival Fatah and Hamas groups.
"The sound path"
With the peace process at a standstill, the Palestinians have said they hope to advance their national cause by seeking full membership of the United Nations in September.
U.S. opposition means they have very little chance of success, but Israel fears the maneuvering will leave them looking vulnerable on the diplomatic front.
U.S.-brokered talks between the Palestinians and Israel broke down last September in a dispute over continued settlement building in the West Bank, part of the territories where Abbas aims to found the Palestinian state.
"In these circumstances, it seems better to me that we freeze discussion of the peace process until there is a partner ready for peace," said Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, who was chairing the meeting.
Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, a leading candidate for the Egyptian presidency, told Reuters that Netanyahu had presented nothing but a series of "no's" in his speech to the U.S. Congress.
"The sound path is going to the United Nations and political struggle," Moussa said. "I believe that negotiations have become futile in light of all of these nos. What will you negotiate on?"
The Palestinians currently have the status of UN observers without voting rights, but are hoping that at September's General Assembly they can persuade other nations to accept them as a sovereign member.
In a bid to break the deadlock, Obama said in a major policy speech last week that a future Palestinian state should be based on the borders as they existed on the eve of the Six Day War in 1967, with land swaps mutually agreed with Israel.
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