Palestinians to seek full UN membership Sept. 23

By Mohammed Daraghmeh

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Sept. 15 2011 1:29 p.m. MDT

Tailor Abu Khatab sews Palestinian flags as part of the campaign promoting the Palestinians' bid for statehood, at his workshop in the West Bank city of Nablus, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011.

Nasser Ishtayeh, Associated Press

RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinians will ask the Security Council next week to accept them as a full member of the United Nations, the Palestinian foreign minister said Thursday, a move that would defy Washington's threat to veto the statehood bid.

The remarks by Riad Malki came just ahead of the arrival in the West Bank of a senior U.S. diplomatic team that was in the region in a last-ditch effort to persuade the Palestinians to drop the U.N. bid. Although Malki did not close the door on compromise, his comments signaled the chances of breakthrough were slim.

With a diplomatic showdown looming, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Thursday that he would travel to the U.N. next week to lead the opposition to the Palestinian initiative.

The emerging scenario would constitute a blow to U.S. diplomacy by forcing Washington to veto a proposal whose outcome — a Palestinian state — in principle is supported by most of the world, including the White House and many in Israel as well.

However, both the U.S. and Israel say a Palestinian state can be established only through negotiations.

It could also drag out the maneuver at the United Nations for months.

The process would have to play out in the Security Council before the Palestinians turn to the General Assembly, where they are likely to find the needed majority for a lesser form of recognition as a "nonmember observer state."

Malki said the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, will personally submit the Palestinian request for membership to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon after addressing the General Assembly on the afternoon of Sept. 23. In the meantime, he said the Palestinians would listen to suggested alternatives.

"We will see if anyone carries with him or her any credible offer that will allow us to look into it seriously and to be discussed in the Palestinian leadership. Otherwise, on the 23rd at 12:30, the president will submit the application," Malki told foreign journalists in Ramallah.

The Palestinians say they are turning to the U.N. in frustration after years of failed peace talks. While a U.N. vote will not change the situation on the ground, the Palestinians believe it will improve their position if peace talks resume.

"We are going to the United Nations because we want really to strengthen the chances for the resumption of negotiations," Malki said.

Malki said the Palestinians were still ready to listen to suggestions from American envoys. And in New York, his U.N. ambassador, Riyad Mansour, said a final decision on whether to pursue recognition in the powerful Security Council, or seek a lesser, symbolic status in the General Assembly still had not been made.

"The final decision will be taken in the next few days as to which path we will follow," Mansour said.

Asked about his boss's comments in Ramallah, he replied: "There are many words from many places, but what I'm telling you is that we are deliberating all these details and it is not yet finalized."

The U.S. envoys, David Hale and Dennis Ross, are the latest in a string of senior diplomats who are trying to get the Palestinians to cancel their U.N. bid and instead resume negotiations with Israel. The European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and international Mideast envoy Tony Blair have also held talks with the Palestinians in recent days.

A meeting with Blair late Wednesday, Malki said, "did not produce anything new."

The last round of Israel-Palestinian talks broke down a year ago, just weeks after their launch, in a dispute over Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The Palestinians claim both areas, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war for their future state.

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