Envoy: Palestinians to Continue Pursuing UN Membership

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon prepares to visit Palestinian government leaders in the West Bank, says Palestinian UN observer Riyad Mansour.

The Palestinians will employ new creative ideas to gain membership at the world body despite a U.S. threat to veto such an action, Palestinian UN observer Riyad Mansour disclosed Friday.

Mansour presented the Security Council president with a four page letter detailing Israeli settlement activity, and the two discussed several ideas to gain UN membership for his people.

Riyad Mansour - AP - March 22, 2011

"Are we giving up because there is one powerful country that has a veto power saying the Security Council should not be involved? We're not giving up," Mansour said, without referring to the United States by name. "So now we're coming up with these new creative ideas."

Mansour's letter comes one day after an announcement by a U.S. State Department spokeswoman that Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators would hold their second round of face-to-face talks on Monday in Amman, Jordan.

The two sides held their first high-level talks in more than a year in Amman on Tuesday, in a gathering sponsored by the Quartet of Middle East peace mediators - the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States.

The Quartet on September 23 called for the two sides to resume talks with the aim of reaching a peace deal by the end of 2012.

That month, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas requested full membership status at the United Nations, sidestepping peace negotiating efforts that have foundered for nearly two decades.

The U.S. and Israel object to the move, insisting on a negotiated peace agreement first.

The admissions committee has already concluded its report on membership, but it appears the Palestinians do not have the votes to gain membership even without the U.S. veto.

The Israeli and U.S. missions to the UN did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mansour said that while the Palestinian Authority has not decided on its next step, he held out the possibility of going to the UN's 192-member General Assembly where the U.S. does not have veto power.

He also suggested the Palestinians could seek to join other UN agencies as they have with UNESCO, which admitted the Palestinians in October.

Another example of creative diplomacy occurred last month, Mansour said, when rather than seeking a formal presidential statement from the Security Council, diplomats from EU and other countries read statements directly to the press taking the U.S. to task over its intransigence in failing to condemn Israel for expanding settlements.

Mansour said the letter handed to Baso Sangqu, the UN Ambassador from South Africa which holds the Security Council presidency for the month of January, documents "crimes committed by the occupying authority against our people in the occupied territory, including the terrorist activities by the settlers against our civilian population."

Mansour also confirmed UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was preparing to visit Palestinian government leaders in the West Bank city of Ramallah later this month or early next month, but the exact date had yet to be set.