Palestinian leader vows peace, urges settlement end

UNITED NATIONS Sat Sep 25, 2010 5:30pm EDT

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Sharm el-Sheikh September 14, 2010. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Sharm el-Sheikh September 14, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas vowed on Saturday to do everything possible to make peace negotiations with Israel succeed and avoided any direct threats to break off the talks over settlements.

In a speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Abbas said the Palestinians would "exert every sincere effort" to reach a peace agreement with Israel within a year.

He did not refer to Sunday's expiry of an Israeli freeze on new settlement construction in the West Bank. But he made clear that Israel would have to cease all settlement activities if the direct negotiations with Israel were to succeed.

"Israel must choose between peace and the continuation of settlements," he said.

Abbas has threatened repeatedly to break off the fragile negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the settlements. The U.S.-supervised talks are aimed at reaching a peace agreement within a year.

Netanyahu, whose rightist coalition government includes pro-settler parties, has so far deflected U.S. President Barack Obama's pleas to extend the freeze. He has also said renewed construction in the settlements might be on a reduced scale.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Abbas on Friday in New York to persuade the Palestinians to remain in the talks.

It was not clear if Clinton and Abbas planned to meet again before the Palestinian leader heads back to the Middle East.

EGYPTIAN WARNING

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said former Senator George Mitchell, U.S. special envoy on the Middle East, met Abbas for 30 minutes in New York on Saturday.

"We are doing everything we can to keep the parties in direct talks," Crowley said, declining further comment.

Israel has told the Palestinians to come to the negotiating table without preconditions.

Abbas told the 192-nation General Assembly the Israelis needed to take a number of steps in addition to halting settlements, including ending the blockade of the Gaza Strip and dismantling its West Bank barrier.

"Our demands for the cessation of settlement activities, the lifting of the siege and an end to other illegal Israeli policies and practices do not constitute arbitrary preconditions in the peace process," he said.

"Israel's implementation of these obligations and commitments will lead to the creation of the necessary environment for the success of the negotiations and will give credibility to the final agreement reached," he said.

Egypt's foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, warned Israel it would bear the blame if the talks break down over the issue of settlements.

"If Israel fails in its commitment to continue freezing its settlement activities, then it would expose the negotiation process to failure and it would shoulder full responsibility before the region and world public opinion," he said.

"Israel should also bear the responsibility for any negative consequences," he said in his speech to the assembly.

(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Louis Charbonneau; Writing by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Peter Cooney)

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Comments (6)
USAalltheway wrote:
Abbas speaks for only half the Palestinians. Hamas wants nothing but the destruction of Israel. Thus making Abbas useless

Sep 25, 2010 1:46pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Cryos wrote:
Talking to Abbas is like talking to the Queen of England. No power just a prestigious position.

Palestinians chose to give Hamas their government. Now they’re reaping the consequences.

Sep 25, 2010 2:07pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Gunslinger wrote:
Do the Palestinians pledge to stop all settlement activity as well as demanding the Israeli’s do it? The land in Gaza and the “West Bank” is owned by no one in accordance with the League of Nations and the UN. So, if one side can’t build, neither can the other.

Sep 25, 2010 2:15pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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