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Palestinian President Abbas warns of 'last chance' for Middle East peace

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has warned that US-brokered talks with Israel appeared to offer the "last chance" for Middle East peace efforts. He has urged world powers to push for an end to Israeli settlements.

In an address to the annual UN General Assembly on Thursday, President Abbas said he was committed to negotiating with Israel, but warned that the latest peace efforts could offer a final opportunity for forging a lasting agreement.

"Time is running out, and the window of peace is narrowing and the opportunities are diminishing," Abbas said.

"The current round of negotiations appears to be a last chance to realize a just peace," he said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry brokered the resumption of peace talks in July following a three-year lapse. Many Israeli's and Palestinians are skeptical, however, over whether they will offer a lasting solution to a decades-old conflict.

Abbas, who was given a standing ovation, was introduced at the United Nations for the first time as the "president of Palestine," following a UN vote in November to grant it observer status. It was upgraded from a "non-member state" despite opposition from the US and Israel.

The Palestinian leadership has frequently used annual General Assembly summits to build momentum in the hope of influencing Israel.

Settlements 'undermine' peace efforts

President Abbas was particularly vocal in his criticism of the ongoing building of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, urging no letup in international efforts to halt such activity.

"The international community is asked to remain alert to condemn and stop any actions on the ground that would undermine negotiations," Abbas said.

"I refer here, above all, to the continuation of settlement construction on our Palestinian land, particularly in Jerusalem," he said.

He added that occupation could "provide legitimacy."

"Such policies may impose a weak stability, but they cannot prevent an inevitable explosion," he said.

Previous efforts to foster peace collapsed in 2010 following a dispute over settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as their capital.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to address the United Nations next week.

ccp/lw (AFP, Reuters)