Palestinian FM: Israel's New Unity Government Won't Aid Peace Process

Riad Malki says new Palestinian bid for statehood recognition at UN is 'imminent'; Netanyahu envoy to deliver letter to Abbas urging renewal of peace talks.

The Palestinian foreign minister said Saturday that he sees no major dividends for the peace process coming out of the formation of a new Israeli unity government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Riad Malki said Saturday that the broad new ruling coalition would only serve to further the interests of its leading partners and that he saw little prospect of a softening in Israel's stance.

Palestinian FM Riad Malki March 10, 2012 (AP)

Peace talks with the Palestinians have been frozen throughout Netanyahu's three-year term because of disagreements over settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Palestinians, who claim both areas for a future state, have said they won't return to the negotiating table without a settlement freeze. Netanyahu says talks should resume without any preconditions.

But Netanyahu's alliance with the opposition Kadima party this week has raised hopes some room could be made for compromise with the Palestinians, without his government being brought down by hardline nationalists. That optimism has yet to materialize among the Palestinian leadership, however.

"I don't see how this will be translated into rapprochement with the Palestinians vis-a-vis the peace process," Malki told The Associated Press on the sidelines of a conference on refugees in the Muslim world that concluded Sunday in the Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan.

Malki also said that a new bid for statehood at the UN General Assembly was "imminent." He said that he was not surprised by what he deems to be the pro-Israel rhetoric coming out of the U.S. during the presidential election season, but that the bid would go ahead regardless.

How Netanyahu chooses to respond to an April ultimatum from the Palestinians on the terms for restarting peace talks may prove decisive to the statehood issue.

"It depends on the response of Netanyahu to our letter. It depends on how the Americans will react to that and if they will come forward with some fresh ideas," Maliki said. "We are not in a rush, but at the same time, we are not going to wait forever."

On Saturday, Netanyahu's special envoy Isaac Molho was set to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, to deliver a letter urging him to return to peace talks.