Ban Ki-moon - AP - 28.2.2011
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Photo by AP
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The Palestinian people are "long overdue" in their quest for an independent state, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday, ahead of a Palestinian push for statehood in the UN planned for later this month.

Ban's comments came a day after Palestinian activists launched a campaign for the recognition of a Palestinian state in the United Nations. The move contradicts earlier reports that the Palestinian Authority was the one who issued the request.

In a letter addressed to Ban's Ramallah office, Palestinian activists urged the leader of the international community to "exert all possible efforts toward the achievement of the Palestinian people's just demands."

Speaking on Friday, the UN chief was quoted by the French news agency AFP as saying he fully supported Palestinian statehood: "The two state vision where Israel and Palestinians can live... side by side in peace and security -- that is a still a valid vision and I fully support it."

"And I support also the statehood of Palestinians; an independent, sovereign state of Palestine. It has been long overdue," Ban told reporters in Canberra, adding that a "recognition of a state is something to be determined by the member states."

Ban stressed the point further, saying, according to AFP, that it was not a decision to be made "by the Secretary General so I leave it to the member states to decide to recognize or not to recognize."

The UN chief's comments came following following an Haaretz report, according to which White House Middle East emissaries Dennis Ross and David Hale met Wednesday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and made it clear to him that a request to the United Nations for recognition in about two weeks of an independent Palestinian state could have serious implications.

For his part, Abbas said the Palestinian request for recognition of statehood within the 1967 borders had reached a point of no return and he could not retract it.

Ross and Hale also met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak in the course of their visit to the region, but the trip was aimed at applying last-minute pressure on the Palestinian president.

An Israeli source with knowledge of the details of the meeting between the visiting Americans and Abbas noted that this was the first time the Americans had spelled out the full negative implications of the Palestinian request to the UN.