Obama to Abbas: U.S. will veto Palestinian statehood bid at UN
U.S. President appeals to Palestinian President at meeting on sidelines of UN General Assembly; ahead of Clinton meeting, Netanyahu says West Bank settlement freeze not an option.
U.S. President Barack Obama told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday that UN action would not achieve a Palestinian state and the United States would veto any Security Council move to recognize Palestinian statehood, the White House said.
"We would have to oppose any action at the UN Security Council including, if necessary, vetoing," Ben Rhodes, the White House national security council spokesman, told reporters after Obama met Abbas in New York.
PLO diplomatic envoy to the U.S. Maen Rashid Erekat told Haaretz that the U.S. President "reiterated the commitment of the U.S. to the establishment of the Palestinian state, as part of the two-state solution, and stressed the position of the US that the UN is not the right venue to reach this goal."
"President Abbas explained the Palestinian position - basically it's what we've done in the past few months, each side explained his position," he added.
Obama met Abbas at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York on Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was due to hold separate talks with Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday evening.
In a joint press conference preceding his meeting with Clinton, Netanyahu referred to why he will not freeze settlement construction, despite that this may be one way to return to negotiations.
Netanyahu told reporters, "I did something that no previous Israeli government did. I actually froze any construction for ten months, waited nine months and one week; the Palestinians finally came and said, well, keep on freezing."
"So I think wisely – and we concluded with the United States – that what we really have to do is get on with the real issues and get down and negotiate all these issues in order to get peace. We have to negotiate the issues to resolve them. We can’t just negotiate about the negotiations," he added.
Obama met with Netanyahu earlier on Wednesday. Netanyahu thanked Obama for endorsing direct talks with Palestinians and speaking out against any UN bid to declare a Palestinian state.
At a joint press conference following the meeting, Netanyahu said that direct negotiation was the only way to achieve a stable Middle East peace, and that the Palestinian effort to secure UN recognition of statehood "will not succeed."
Ben Rhodes said that in both Obama’s meeting with Abbas and with Netanyahu, the U.S. president stressed his belief that Palestinian and Israeli interests are not that far apart.
Rhodes claimed that “the differences between the parties can be bridged and are not as wide as the atmosphere may suggest. Therefore, it’s both necessary and worth the effort of pursuing direct negotiations because they hold out the promise of achieving a Palestinian state.”
Senior Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath also told a press conference on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Wednesday that the Palestinians' statehood bid at the United Nations is the only alternative to violence, stressing that the UN move will give the Palestinians the chance to promote their rights.
Shaath said that the Palestinians plan to give the UN Security Council time to mull its statehood bid, which they are due to submit on Friday, before turning to the UN General Assembly.
Earlier Wednesday, Obama delivered a speech at the UN General Assembly, urging the Palestinians to renew negotiations with Israel, rather than seek statehood at the United Nations.