Mahmoud Abbas
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Photo by AP
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The Palestinians will resume attempts to get the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state, if no peace talks with Israel are forthcoming, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in remarks broadcast Saturday night.

He told Israel's Channel 2 News that while negotiations remained his "first, second, and third" option, the UN bid would be pursued if there was no horizon for peace. He did not give a timetable for the move.

A Palestinian bid for UN membership - in effect recognition of Palestinian statehood - fell through last year when it became clear that the necessary Security Council votes were lacking.

Replying in Arabic to questions posed in English, Abbas said he was not issuing an ultimatum, and said that talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu depended on the release of 123 Palestinian prisoners who were jailed by Israel prior to the signing of the 1993 Oslo interim peace accords.

Abbas said his insistence that negotiations cannot take place unless Israel freezes construction in its West Bank settlements and in East Jerusalem and recognizes the 1967 borders as the basis for a Palestinian state, were not pre-conditions.

Instead, he said, his position on the settlements was the same as that of the entire world.

Abbas said he did not accept a bi-national Israeli-Palestinian state as a solution to the conflict, but noted that the Israeli government's settlement policy was making many Palestinians think such an option was the only feasible one.

Netanyahu's office responded to the interview by calling on Abbas "to meet soon in order to promote the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians."

"Until now, Abbas has never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity," prime ministerial spokesman Ofir Gendelman said, accusing Abbas of "refusing to hold talks" even after Netanyahu "made unprecedented steps, such as freezing construction in the settlements."