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Palestinian leader calls for peace conference by mid-2018

February 21, 2018

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation in Palestine, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018 at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ruled out the United States as a broker for peace with Israel on Tuesday, calling for an international peace conference by mid-2018 with the key goals of full U.N. membership for the state of Palestine and a timeframe for a two-state solution.

Abbas spoke as the Trump administration’s two key Mideast negotiators who are working on a U.S. peace proposal — the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and special representative Jason Greenblatt — sat in the Security Council chamber listening. But he left without speaking to them or listening to U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley say that “the United States stands ready to work with the Palestinian leadership,” and the two envoys are “ready to talk.”

The Palestinians are furious at President Donald Trump for overturning decades of U.S. policy and recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, ignoring that east Jerusalem is Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since the 1967 war that the Palestinians want as the capital of their independent state. Abbas called Trump’s pro-Israeli action “dangerous” and has said the president’s action destroyed his credibility as a Mideast peace broker.

“It has become impossible today for one country alone to solve a regional or international conflict without the participation of other international partners,” the Palestinian leader said.

Abbas presented the Palestinians “peace plan” to the council. It calls for mutual recognition by the states of Israel and Palestine based on 1967 borders, and formation of “an international multilateral mechanism” to assist the two parties in resolving all final status issues and implementing them “within a set time frame.”

He said the peace conference should include the Israelis and Palestinians, the five permanent Security Council members and key regional and international governments, noting that 74 countries attended a Mideast peace conference in Paris in January 2017.

The Palestinians want to set up a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 war. But there have been no serious negotiations since gaps widened following the 2009 election of Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s prime minister. He rejects the 1967 frontier as a baseline for border talks, has expanded settlements which the U.N. call illegal, and rules out a partition of Jerusalem.

Abbas accused Israel of “acting as a State above the law.”

“It has transformed the occupation from a temporary situation ... into a situation of permanent settlement colonization,” he said. “How can this happen? Israel shut the door on the two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders.”

The Palestinian leader added into his prepared remarks: “We are employees for the occupation.”

Abbas said the principle of two-states living side-by-side with full sovereignty must be preserved, but he said the U.S. has not clarified whether it is for a two-state or a one-state solution.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed that “there is no Plan B” to a two-state solution. But he warned that “after decades of support, the global consensus for a two-state solution could be eroding.”

The U.N. chief voiced opposition to a one-state solution saying: “It is simply impossible to square the circle of a one-state reality with the legitimate national, historic and democratic aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.”

Abbas was the last to arrive in the Security Council, and he left immediately after his speech to attend a reception hosted by the Palestinians, avoiding any direct contact with the Americans or Israelis.

Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon accused Abbas of “once again running away,” and refusing to meet Netanyahu for 7 1/2 years “to negotiate peace.”

Netanyahu’s office issued a statement saying: “Abbas didn’t say anything new. He continues to run away from peace, and continues to pay terrorists and their families $347 million.”

Danon accused Abbas of using “hateful speech” and glorifying violence instead of improving the lives of Palestinians.

“Mr. Abbas, you have made it clear with your words and with your actions that you are no longer part of the solution,” he said. “You are the problem.”

Haley disagreed, saying the Trump administration was offering “an outstretched hand” to the Palestinian people and their leaders.

“But we will not chase after you,” Haley said. “The choice, Mr. president, is yours.”

She said the U.S. will not change its decision on Dec. 6 to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, a move that has frozen U.S.-Palestinian relations.

The Palestinian leadership has a choice of two paths — “absolutist demands, hateful rhetoric, and incitement to violence” which will only lead to hardship for the Palestinian people or “negotiation and compromise” that holds the promise of peace, Haley said.

Though Kushner and Greenblatt didn’t meet Abbas, they did meet informally behind closed doors with Security Council members.

Equatorial Guinea’s U.N. Ambassador Anatolio Ndong Mba called the fact that they came to the council “very, very important” and “a good sign.” But he said council members “haven’t received any details” of the U.S. proposal for Palestinian-Israeli peace.

France’s U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre said his government received Abbas’ proposal with interest and will study his call for an international conference, but U.S. participation in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process “is indispensable.”

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