Palestinians' Abbas tells Obama he will push for U.N. upgrade
RAMALLAH, West Bank
RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday that he was intent on seeking a Palestinian upgrade at the United Nations despite American objections, a Palestinian official said.
Abbas spoke to Obama in a phone conversation to explain his decision, said Nabil Abu Rdaineh, an aide to the Palestinian president.
On Wednesday, the Western-backed Palestinian Authority circulated a draft resolution to U.N. member states that calls for upgrading its U.N. status to that of observer state, despite objections by the United States and Israel.
"President Abbas cited the reasons and motives for the Palestinian decision to seek non-member statehood as continued Israeli settlement activity and the continued attacks on Palestinians and their property," Abu Rdaineh said.
"Obama informed President Abbas of U.S. opposition to the bid," he added.
The Palestinians are currently considered an observer "entity" at the United Nations. Upgrading them to a non-member state, similar to the Vatican's U.N. status, would implicitly recognise Palestinian statehood.
It could also grant them access to bodies such as the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where they could file complaints against Israel.
The status upgrade seems certain to win approval in any vote in the General Assembly, which is composed mostly of post-colonial states historically sympathetic to the Palestinians.
Palestinian diplomats also are courting European countries to further burnish their case.
Israel and the United States say Palestinian statehood must be achieved by negotiation and have called on Abbas to return to peace talks that collapsed in 2010 over Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.
The Palestinians seek to establish a state in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip - which is controlled by the Islamist Hamas group who are bitter rivals of the Palestinian Authority - and want East Jerusalem as its capital.
Abbas has billed the move as a last-ditch attempt to advance long-stalled talks to achieve statehood by first having the world recognise Palestine as a state under Israeli occupation and its borders.
On Saturday, Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz threatened to stop collecting tax revenues for the Palestinian Authority and not hand over any money if Abbas continued to seek observer state membership of the United Nations.
In July, Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed on a revamp of revenue collection to try to help relieve the Palestinian government's deepening debt crisis.
The aid-dependent Palestinian economy in the West Bank faces financial crisis due to a drop in aid from Western backers and wealthy Gulf states, as well as Israeli restrictions on trade.
(Additional reporting By Ali Sawafta; Editing by Stephen Powell)