PA sets U.N. vote on upgrading status

Nov. 13, 2012 at 2:30 AM
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AL-BIREH, West Bank, Nov. 13 (UPI) -- The Palestinian Authority will call on the United Nations this month to recognize a Palestinian state as part of a status upgrade, Palestinian officials said.

If the General Assembly votes Nov. 29 to upgrade the PA to a non-member "observer state" from a non-member "observer entity," then the PA, which governs parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, will be ready to restart peace talks with Israel, President Mahmoud Abbas said.

"If it is possible to start talks on the following day [after a successful vote], then we are ready for that," Abbas told reporters in Cairo after announcing the Nov. 29 date during a meeting with Arab League foreign ministers.

Jerusalem and Washington have told the PA such a unilateral move would endanger the already crippled Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Both countries have suggested they might impose economic sanctions on the PA, with Israel possibly withholding tax fees, The Jerusalem Post reported.

President Barack Obama reiterated U.S. opposition to Abbas Sunday during a congratulatory call on Obama's election victory, the White House said. But Abbas said he intended to press forward anyway, Palestinian officials said.

Abbas told reporters Monday, "We are not interested in a confrontation with anyone -- not with the U.S. and not with Israel."

But he indicated he would not be cowed and said he expected the PA would receive the needed majority vote of the 193-member General Assembly for the upgrade.

"We have visited all five continents in order to get the maximum number of votes possible," he said. "We will get our majority."

Muhammad Shtayyeh, a senior Palestinian official closely associated with Abbas, told reporters the PA's aim was to garner international support for a two-state solution that included a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The two-state solution envisions an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

He said a General Assembly vote in support of Palestinian statehood would create "new terms of reference" for peace talks with Israel.

"We are hoping that this U.N. bid becomes a pressure mechanism on Israel to come seriously to the negotiating table, to come with serious intentions and proposals," he said at Palestine Liberation Organization offices in the West Bank city of al-Bireh, next to Ramallah, where the PA headquarters is located. Al-Bireh is 9 miles north of Jerusalem.

The PLO is currently recognized as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people" by the United Nations.

The possible PA upgrade is widely viewed as largely symbolic because only the 15-member Security Council can grant full U.N. membership.

But it would increase PA rights to join other U.N. and international bodies and possibly let it pursue Israeli officials at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.

The ICC is a permanent tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and, perhaps by 2017, crimes of aggression.

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