Palestinian UN Envoy: Talks With Israel Won't Stop Bid for State Recognition

Riyad Mansour dismisses speculation that Palestinians would decide against seeking UN membership at the General Assembly meeting in September.

The Palestinians will seek membership as an independent state at the UN in September even if peace negotiations with Israel are underway, the Palestinian UN envoy said on Thursday.

Riyad Mansour said the Palestinians are working on three separate tracks - restarting negotiations, completing the institutions for an independent state and gaining additional recognition for a Palestinian state.

UN headquarters AP October 12, 2010

"If we succeed in opening the door for negotiations, we're not going to stop from attaining what belongs to us as Palestinians in this General Assembly starting on Sept. 20," Mansour told reporters after the Security Council's monthly meeting on the Mideast. "Whether we succeed in the negotiations or we don't, the other two tracks are continuing."

Mansour dismissed speculation that the Palestinians would decide against taking action to promote an independent Palestinian state and UN membership at the annual gathering of world leaders and ministers at the General Assembly.

Some Palestinians have said privately that the project is problematic and promises a messy and unclear outcome that could change little on the ground - and might backfire politically or even spark new violence if Palestinians emerge disappointed with the result.

UN membership requires a recommendation from the Security Council - which means no veto by the United States, Israel's closest ally - and approval by two-thirds of the General Assembly, or 128 countries. The U.S. has repeatedly said there should be a negotiated peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians before Palestine becomes a UN member state.

Earlier this month, U.S. officials told a visiting Palestinian delegation that seeking UN recognition in the absence of a peace deal was a "nonstarter" - the latest indication that the U.S. would veto a resolution at the Security Council.

Israel's UN Ambassador Ron Prosor told reporters that "doing anything unilateral would not be constructive."

The Palestinians insist they will not resume peace talks until Israel stops building settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem - lands that Israel took control of during the Six Day War in 1967 and which the Palestinians want for their future state. Israel maintains that the Palestinians should not set conditions for talks and that settlements didn't stop them negotiating in the past.

Mansour criticized Israel for refusing to halt settlement building and agree to resume negotiations based on 1967 borders, with agreed land swaps, as U.S. President Barack Obama has endorsed.

Prosor said "I think both sides are working together now to find ways to go into direct negotiations."

"I know that unilateral steps don't bring anything constructive, but on the contrary," he said, "so we all should try and work as much as we can with the time that we have in order to set down with the difficult issues that we still have to address."

Mansour wouldn't say exactly what the Palestinians will do at the UN in September. Asked when the Palestinians would submit an application for UN membership to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, he replied: "When we are ready."

He predicted that more than two-thirds of the 192 UN member states would recognize an independent Palestinian state before September, up from "around 120" countries at present.

"Then, we want to know if there is a position in the Security Council of depriving us of our natural right and legal right to join the community of nations as a state," he said. "What would be the argument if more than two-thirds of nations are supporting us in that endeavor?"

Mansour said he believes this year the Palestinians are facing "a historic moment" because the international community "is sick and tired of the continuation of this conflict."

"No one can stop the wheel of history that is rotating," he said. "They want to see it ending - and it has to be ending on the basis of an independent Palestinian state on the borders of 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital."