At UN, Israel's Foreign Minister Calls on Palestinians to 'Come Back to Direct Negotiations'

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Yisrael Katz addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 26, 2019.
Yisrael Katz addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 26, 2019.Credit: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

Israel's Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz called on Palestinians Thursday to "come back to direct negotiations without any preconditions," and urged the international community to take steps to "stop Iran today, in order to prevent war tomorrow."

Katz spoke at the United Nations General Assembly instead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who canceled his participation at the annual meeting over Israel's political deadlock in coalition talks after the September 17 election.

>> Read more: With Netanyahu grounded in Jerusalem, Trump — and Iran — take center stage at UN

In his speech, Katz called on the UN to declare Lebanon's Hezbollah and Iran's Revolutionary Guards terror organizations, adding in Persian: "You don't count the birds before the end of autumn. It's not over till it's over."

The Israeli minister also called on more countries to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and to freeze all aid to the Gaza Strip until Hamas returns the two Israeli civilians and bodies of two Israeli soldiers it holds.

"Israel has a clear policy" to advance ties and normalization with Gulf States, Katz added. "We have no conflict with the Gulf States, and we have common interests in the field of security against the Iranian threat, as well as in developing many joint civilian initiatives."

Earlier on Thursday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke before the General Assembly, warning that if Netanyahu's "illegal plan" to annex the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea were carried out, his government would terminate all agreements with Israel.

Extending Israel's sovereignty over parts of the West Bank annuls the Oslo Accords, Abbas said, arguing that Netanyahu is avoiding any possible breakthrough in negotiations or any potential agreement between the parties.

Discussing U.S. President Donald Trump's peace initiative, Abbas said his government would agree to American mediation with Israel, saying "we cannot accept that the shepherding of peace be monopolized by one country" and adding the Trump administration has "encouraged" Israel to renounce its obligations in previous agreements with the Palestinian leadership.

"This has led many among the Palestinian people to lose hope, rendering a two-state solution irrelevant for them," Abbas said, stressing he still supports a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and renewing his call for an international peace conference.

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