Abbas and Obama
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, left, and U.S. President Barack Obama, right. Photo by AP / Bloomberg
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The Palestinians fended off on Tuesday U.S. criticism of their bid for upgraded status at the United Nations, saying the move would improve prospects for a peace accord with Israel, not damage them.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sent a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday, saying he is ready to resume talks with Israel if he succeeds in obtaining UN recognition for the Palestinians.

Having failed last year to win recognition of full statehoodat the world body, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas now seeks a less ambitious promotion to "non-member state", which would likely be approved by a vote in the UN General Assembly.

According to the Palestine News Network, Abbas' political adviser, Nimr Hammad, said that Abbas, in his letter to Obama, reaffirmed that the Palestinians are committed to a two-state solution. He also insisted that his decision to obtain UN recognition was not a "unilateral decision."

"This step doesn't aim to isolate Israel but to obtain an international recognition that facilitates negotiations," Hammad said."We are ready to resume negotiations after obtaining international recognition."

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland responded to the Palestinian argument that UN recognition of the Palestinian state would foster peace with Israel.

"Our position on all of these issues is not changed. We think the way this needs to be settled is through direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. That is the route to a lasting peace between them, not the UN route. The UN route is unproductive, counterproductive, that what we really need is for these parties to be focused on sitting at the table with each other."

On Monday, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said that the Palestinian bid to upgrade its UN status to a sovereign country would jeopardize the peace process with Israel and make it difficult to get the two sides to return to talks on a two-state solution.

Having failed last year to win recognition of full statehood at the United Nations, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said last month he would seek a less-ambitious status upgrade at the world body to make it a "non-member state" like the Vatican.

The president of the 193-member UN General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic, has said the issue will likely be debated in mid-November, after the U.S. election.

Washington argues a Palestinian state can only be created through direct talks.

"Unilateral actions, including initiatives to grant Palestinians non-member state observer status at the United Nations, would only jeopardize the peace process and complicate efforts to return the parties to direct negotiations," Rice told the UN Security Council during a debate on the Middle East situation.

There have been no direct Palestinian talks with Israel on peace since 2010, when the Palestinians refused to resume negotiations unless the Israeli government suspended settlement building in occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

"Any efforts to use international fora to prejudge final status issues that can only be resolved directly by the parties will neither improve the daily lives of Palestinians nor foster the trust essential to make progress toward a two-state solution," Rice said.

The Palestinians' current UN status is an "observer entity." If Abbas wins, that would change to "observer state."

Being registered as a state rather than an entity would mean the Palestinians could join bodies such as the International Criminal Court and file complaints against Israel for its continued occupation of land it seized in the 1967 war.