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Palestinian leader calls for Middle East peace conference

February 20, 2018

In a rare UN speech, Mahmoud Abbas has called for an international mechamism to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict. The Palestinian leader slammed the US, which he said could no longer be the sole peace mediator.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at the UN Security Council
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/AP ImagesM. Altaffer

Abbas calls for Middle East peace conference

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday called for an international conference on Middle East peace in mid-2018 followed by UN recognition of a State of Palestine.

In a rare speech at a monthly UN Security Council meeting on Middle East issues, Abbas called for an end to the United States' traditional role as the main mediator between Israel and Palestine. 

"It has become impossible today for one country or state alone to solve a regional or international conflict," Abbas said. "It is essential to establish a multilateral international mechanism emanating from an international conference."

The Palestinians are furious at US President Donald Trump's announcement in December recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and accuse Washington of being biased towards the Jewish state. The Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Abbas also lashed out at US threats to close the Palestinian Liberation Organization office in Washington and the decision to cut to US funding of UNRWA, the UN agency that aids Palestinian refugees.

Interview: Pierre Krähenbühl


Abbas blamed the failure of peace efforts on Israeli settlements and occupation, saying it was "acting as a state above the law."

"It has transformed the occupation from a temporary situation as per international law into a situation of permanent settlement colonization," he said.

The last round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks mediated by the Obama administration broke down in 2014 primarily over Israel's continued building of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN”s envoy, said the international community must press for "substantial Israeli policy changes" on settlements and said that "these are not negotiations between equals."

settlements in the West Bank

Read more:  PLO recognition threat on Israel: Posturing or hard-line diplomacy?

Reducing US influence

Abbas said the conference should include the Palestinians, Israel, the five permanent UN Security Council members — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — and the United Nations.

Such an arrangement would reduce the weight of the United States' influence. Israel wants direct negotiations with the Palestinians, which give it an upper hand. 

The goal of the conference should be full UN membership for Palestine, mutual recognition of Israel and Palestine and a new mechanism for a final peace settlement, Abbas said.

The Trump administration is talking up a Middle East peace plan, but has provided few details or explained how unilaterally recognizing Jerusalem as Israeli's despite overwhelming international opposition was supposed to advance a two state solution.

Read more: Mahmoud Abbas dismisses Donald Trump's peace efforts as 'slap of the century' to Palestinians

The US response

In a snub, Abbas left the Security Council meeting before the US and Israeli ambassadors spoke.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the US was "ready to talk" as it finalizes a peace plan proposal.

"But we will not chase after you. The choice, Mr. President, is yours," she said to Abbas, who was not in the room.

On Jerusalem she said: "You don't have to like that decision. You don't have to praise it. You don't even have to accept it. But know this: That decision will not change."

Highlighting Palestinian perceptions of bias, she was joined by Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, adviser on Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, and US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt. Both are supporters of Israeli settlements.

Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon said Abbas' words and actions made it clear he was "no longer part of the solution. You are the problem."

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cw/rt (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)