UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The Palestinian president and Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations traded barbs on Friday during a signing ceremony for the Paris climate accord, in the latest example of continuing Israeli-Palestinian tensions.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who signed the agreement on behalf of the Palestinians, took advantage of the presence of some 60 world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly to criticize Israel.
“The Israeli occupation is destroying the climate in Palestine, and the Israeli settlements are destroying the environment in Palestine,” Abbas told the 193-nation assembly. “Please help us in putting an end to the occupation and to settlements.”
Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon responded sharply when he addressed the ceremony, in which 175 states signed and 15 ratified the Paris accord.
“Instead of spreading hatred here at the U.N., President Abbas should act to stop Palestinian terror,” he said after signing the treaty.
“This climate summit is supposed to be a demonstration of global unity for the sake of the future of our planet,” he added. “Unfortunately, President Abbas chose to exploit this international stage to mislead the international community.”
Earlier this week, Danon and Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour yelled “shame on you” at each other during a regular U.N. Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East. That meeting turned into a rare shouting match.
U.S.-brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been in tatters since 2014.
Abbas’ presence at the signing ceremony had symbolic importance in the wake of Palestine’s de facto recognition of statehood by the United Nations, which since 2012 has considered Palestine a non-member observer state.
It was the first time a Palestinian president sat in the General Assembly hall as a state party to a treaty at a signing ceremony.
Palestine’s accession to the treaty could lead to complications for the United States, which has a law barring U.S. funding for “any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood.”
U.S. senators sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry saying that Palestine’s participation in the U.N. climate change secretariat and the Paris agreement would prohibit the United States from paying money into a global climate fund.
The letter, signed by 21 Republican Senators, was the latest attempt by Congressional Republicans to block U.S. participation in global climate initiatives.
The U.S. State Department said it received the letter and was preparing a response.
Five years ago the United States stopped funding UNESCO, the U.N. cultural agency, after it granted the Palestinians full membership.
Additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by David Gregorio