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Arab League to request UN membership for Palestine

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (seated, L-R), Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani and Arab Lea

Source | Reuters
Doha | 29 May 2011

The Arab League decided on Saturday to seek full U.N. membership for a Palestinian state in the besiged Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank, with occupied East Jerusalem as its capital.

The Arab League's peace process committee, meeting in Doha, said it would request membership for the state of Palestine at the U.N. General Assembly's meeting in New York in September.

"The committee decided to go to the United Nations to request full membership for Palestine on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital," it said in a statement.

The Palestinian leadership began peace talks with Israel nearly two decades ago with the aim of founding a state alongside Israel in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

But with the peace process at a standstill, the Palestinian leadership has been seeking new ways to advance their cause. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas opposes the use of armed struggle.

The Palestinians currently have the status of U.N. observers without voting rights.

The United States, always has sided with Israel, has veto power in the Security Council.

"Siege upon us"

The Doha meeting had been convened in the wake of major Middle East policy speeches in Washington by Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Abbas, in his opening remarks to the Doha meeting, said there were "no shared foundations" for peace talks with Netanyahu and seeking U.N. recognition was his only option.

"We see from the conditions that Netanyahu laid out that there are no shared foundations ... for negotiations. Our fundamental option is to go to the United Nations," he said.

He expressed fear that the step would lead some states to "try to impose a siege upon us", though he did not say to which governments he was referring. "We hope that there will be a safety net from the Arab states," he said.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) headed by Abbas is dependent on financial support from international donors including the United States and the European Union.

It also relies on customs duties collected on its behalf by Israel as an occupier, which triggered a financial crisis for the PA earlier this month when the Israeli government temporarily seized the funds following a reconciliation deal between the rival Fatah and Hamas groups.

U.S.-brokered talks between the Palestinians and Israel broke down last September after Netanyahu refused to stop illegal settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

"In these circumstances, it seems better to me that we freeze discussion of the peace process until there is a partner ready for peace," said Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, who was chairing the meeting.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, a leading candidate for the Egyptian presidency, told Reuters that Netanyahu had presented nothing but a series of "no's" in his speech to the U.S. Congress.

"The sound path is going to the United Nations and political struggle," Moussa said. "I believe that negotiations have become futile in light of all of these nos. What will you negotiate on?"


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