Abbas Threatens to Rethink Recognition of Israel if U.S. Moves Embassy to Jerusalem

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Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (L) exchange gifts with Pope Francis, during a private audience at the Vatican on January 14, 2017
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (L) exchange gifts with Pope Francis, during a private audience at the Vatican on January 14, 2017Credit: GIUSEPPE LAMI/AFP

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday that the Paris peace conference convening on Sunday may be the last opportunity for achieving a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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In an interview to the French daily Le Figaro, Abbas also warned against a possible American decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, noting that such a decision would be detrimental to the peace process and may lead to a change in the Palestinian Authority’s stand on recognizing Israel.

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Abbas said in the interview that “2017 has to be the year the occupation ends, the year of freedom and justice for the Palestinian people.”

The Palestinian president was in Rome and met Pope Francis on Saturday for the opening of Palestinian embassy in the Vatican.

Abbas called on all countries to recognize Palestine, a move he said would bolster the chances of a peace process. Abbas was expected to continue to Paris for a meeting with President Francois Hollande ahead of the conference, but their meeting was postponed by two weeks. According to Palestinian sources, the two agreed to postpone during a long phone conversation they held on Friday.

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Meanwhile, the Palestinian daily al-Ayam published what it said was a final draft resolution for the Paris Conference. According to the draft, states participating in the conference will agree not to recognize any borders that were not reached through direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians - including in Jerusalem.

According to this draft, participating states concur that a two-state solution arrived at through negotiations should meet the legitimate expectations of both peoples, including Israel’s security concerns and the right of the Palestinian people to establish their state and sovereignty. The resolution calls for ending the occupation that began in 1967. In addition, it states that all core issues would be resolved on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 – which stipulate the "land for peace" formula.

More than 40 foreign ministers and senior diplomats from 75 countries, headed by outgoing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, are expected to participate in the conference, scheduled to open on Sunday. The conference’s final resolution is also expected to refer to Security Council resolution 2334, which expressed opposition to the settlements in the occupied territories and to the plan laid out by Kerry in his landmark policy speech following the UN vote.

Two days ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assailed the French government and the Palestinians in connection with the conference. He claimed that the conference was “Palestinian deceitfulness under French auspices, aimed at adopting further anti-Israeli positions.”

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