Palestinian UN Envoy Says New Settlements Are 'Provocation'

Palestinian UN envoy reacts to Israel's decision to approve the construction of 3,000 homes in Jewish settlements less than 24 hours after UN vote to recognize Palestine as a state.

The Palestinian UN envoy accused Israel on Friday of carrying out "an immediate provocation" following the UN General Assembly's decision to recognitize Palestine as a state, by announcing the expansion of settlements which he denounced as illegal.

Israel accused the Palestinians of bypassing direct negotiations by seeking UN recognition as a state, and less than 24 hours after the vote the government approved the construction of 3,000 homes in Jewish settlements. The Palestinians have insisted that settlement building stop before negotiations resume.

"They are trying to provoke us to react I don't know in which way," Riyad Mansour told the General Assembly.

Mansour said the Palestinians "will continue to extend our hand in peace," but warned that more provocations would be "testing our resolve" and could lead to unspecified actions.

Diplomats in the General Assembly chamber burst into applause when Mansour was called on to speak following the annual adoption of five Palestinian-related resolutions and one on the Golan Heights.

Sitting behind a nameplate saying "State of Palestine" for the first time, Mansour called Thursday's overwhelming vote in the assembly to raise the Palestinians' status to a nonmember observer state historic for his people and the United Nations.

Mansour said Israeli settlement building, attacks like the recent bombings in Gaza and violations of international law and Palestinian rights must be stopped immediately.

In pressing for the statehood resolution, Mansour said the Palestinians were contributing to saving the two-state solution where Israel and Palestine can live side by side in peace, and to opening doors for the possibility of creating an atmosphere conducive to negotiations with Israel that would end the occupation that started in 1967 and "allow for the independence of our state."

He said the choice is up to Israel.

"If they want to move in the direction of peace, the message of our president was crystal clear yesterday," Mansour said. "Again, our hand is extended in peace but we need the other side to reciprocate in the same spirit."

Abbas signaled that he wanted UN recognition as a state to give him leverage in future talks with Israel, and not as a tool for confronting or delegitimizing Israel, as Israeli leaders have claimed. He said his aim is to try "to breathe new life into the negotiations" and he promised that the Palestinians "will act responsibly and positively in our next steps."

Mansour concluded his remarks to the General Assembly saying: "Again, our hand is extended in peace but we need the other side to reciprocate in the same spirit."

Palestinian UN observer Riyad Mansour speaks to reporters following a closed-door meeting of the Council at the United Nations, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012.Credit: AP

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