At UN, Abbas Calls on World Leaders to Recognize Palestinian State

Palestinian president calls for international conference on Israeli-Palestinian peace by mid-2018, slams U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as 'unlawful decision'

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, February 20, 2018.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called in an address to the United Nations Security Council Tuesday to convene an international conference by mid-2018 that would result in the recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. 

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Abbas speaks at UN Security CouncilUnited Nations / YouTube

"We call for the convening of an international peace conference by mid-2018, based on international law and the relevant UN resolutions," Abbas told the UN Security Council in New York. 

The Palestinian president slammed the Trump administration, describing Washington's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital as an "unlawful decision which was rejected by the international community, to remove the issue of Jerusalem 'off the table.'"

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley talks with Israeli counterpart Danny Danon as Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt listen before a Security Council meeting, February 20, 2018.
Mary Altaffer/AP

Abbas said that the only way to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is by establishing "a multi-lateral international mechanism emanating from an international conference and in line with international law and the relevant resolutions."

Abbas demanded that Israel halt settlement construction during any future negotiations, as well as during any other unilateral move that could have implications on a future peace deal. The American decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital should be frozen, he said.

Based on the Arab peace initiative and international and UN Security Council resolutions, Abbas's plan rejects an interim solution to the conflict.

The Palestinian leader said that "Israel is acting like a state above the law" and blamed the Israeli government for past failures to achieve peace. "Israel shut the door on the two-state solution," the Palestinian president said.

Abbas stressed his commitment to non-violence, but said the Palestinians will oppose any attempt to impose a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Netanyahu said following Abbas speech: “nothing Abbas said was new. He continues to run away from peace and continues to pay terrorists and their families $347 million.”

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon responded to Abbas' speech, telling him that it "proves that you are no longer part of the solution, you are part of the problem."

Danon said that "the only way it [Israeli-Palestinian peace] is going to work is with direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians."

Following Abbas' remarks, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said that, while Washington is ready to speak to the Palestinian leadership, "we will not chase after you."

Haley said that the Palestinian leader "must choose between two paths," one that rejects America's role in peace talks, and ones that moves forward with Washington toward a negotiated compromise.

"The choice, mister president, is yours," Haley concluded.

In response to Abbas' speech, Josh Raffel, a White House spokesperson who works on the Israeli-Palestinian file, said:

“We appreciated the opportunity to listen to his speech. We were hoping to hear some new and constructive ideas and the recognition that Jerusalem is holy to Jews in addition to Muslims and Christians is a step in the right direction but as Ambassador Haley warned setting forth old talking points and undeveloped concepts for each of the core issues will not achieve peace. We are trying to do the opposite and will continue working on our plan which is designed to benefit both the Israeli and Palestinian people. We will present it when it is done and the time is right.”

Jared Kushner, U.S. President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, arrived at the UN's headquarters Tuesday for meetings about the peace process prior to Abbas' speech.

Kushner was accompanied by Jason Greenblatt, Trump's special envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Abbas has been boycotting the Trump administration ever since Washington's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December. 

A White House spokesperson told Haaretz that "as we continue to finalize our plan, we came to the United Nations to hear President Abbas’ speech. We strongly hope that he shares fresh and constructive ideas that can create a comprehensive and lasting peace for both sides because merely recycling the same talking points has not led to peace for decades."

Kushner and Greenblatt were seen talking with Danon before Abbas' speech began.