- P.A. foreign minister says Abbas will ask U.N. General Assembly for statehood
- But he leaves open the possibility of an 11th hour deal
- Israeli PM Netanyahu says doubts Palestinians will be successful in their request
The Palestinian Authority's foreign minister said Thursday Palestinians will seek full United Nations membership next week in the Security Council setting a stage for a showdown with the United States which has threatened a veto.
Speaking to a group of reporters in Ramallah, Riyad Al-Maliki said that in his speech to the world body Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas "will present the official request from the state of Palestine to the Secretary-General of the U.N. Ban Ki Moon requesting that the state of Palestine will be admitted as a full member state in the United Nations."
The statement came just hours before two American envoys, Dennis Ross and David Hale, were set to meet with Palestinian leaders in an last ditch effort by both the United States and the European Union to work out a deal for the resumption of peace talks with Israel and prevent the issue of Palestinian statehood from being taken up at the United Nations.
Al-Maliki is the second senior Palestinian official this week to indicate that the Palestinian Authority will seek full membership from the Security Council. The United States has vowed to veto a vote on full Palestinian statehood if the question comes to the U.N. Security Council.
"It should not come as a shock to anyone in this room that the U.S. opposes a move in New York by the Palestinians to try to establish a state that can only be achieved through negotiations," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said last week. "So yes, if something comes to a vote in the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. will veto."
Instead, the Palestinian Authority is expected to go to the General Assembly, where it could get "observer state" status, similar to the position that the Vatican currently holds. A vote in its favor is all but assured.
Al-Maliki did however indicate that an eleventh hour deal aimed at restarting long-moribund talks with Israel was not out of the question. "We have said that until then we are open to any kind of suggestions or ideas that could come from any side in order for the renewal of the negotiations on a firm base with clear terms of reference, with a clear timetable and a clear end game," he said.
In fact there was a hint of compromise coming from the Palestinian envoy to the United Nations when he spoke to reporters Thursday morning. According to Riyadh Mansoor, the Palestinian envoy, no decision has been made about a Palestinian request for statehood recognition at the General Assembly next week. His remarks were seen to be indicative of the behind-the-scenes negotiations still going on.
Speaking of the diplomatic initiative Al-Maliki said, "We will see if any of them are carrying any credible offers that will allow us to look into it seriously -- otherwise on the 23rd at 12:30, the president will submit the application" a reference to the scheduled time for the U.N. speech of Abbas.
Al-Maliki indicated that based on recent visits he was not optimistic that American diplomacy would bring about a breakthrough.
"I thought the Americans would be more forthcoming in presenting something that will satisfy the expectations of the Palestinians. Unfortunately what we have heard from the last visit of Dennis Ross and David Hale were threats. "
Separately in Jerusalem the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Thursday that he would be traveling to the United Nations next week to make Israel's address before the General Assembly.
Speaking in a news conference with the visiting Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Netanyahu said he would attend the world body and address the Israeli -- Palestinian conflict "not to win applause but to speak the truth to every nation that wants to hear the truth"
The announcement followed much debate within the prime minister's office as to whether Netanyahu should make the high profile address at the U.N. or leave it to Israeli President Shimon Peres.
Netanyahu repeated the long-standing Israeli position, that the Palestinian U.N. bid would harm prospects for peace and direct negotiations between the two sides should start immediately with no pre-conditions.
He also expressed doubts about the success of Palestinian efforts to push a measure through the Security Council.
"I am convinced it will not happen and I think there will be a lot of contacts and movements and actions to make sure that this does not happen. That is the main thing," he said.