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U.S. will not chase Palestinians lacking will to seek peace - Haley

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States will not “chase after a Palestinian leadership that lacks what is needed to achieve peace,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks at UN headquarters in New York, NY, U.S., January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

Haley criticised a Jan. 14 speech by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at a meeting of the Palestinian Central Council, where he said he would only accept a broad, internationally-backed panel to broker any peace talks with Israel.

“A speech that indulges in outrageous and discredited conspiracy theories is not the speech of a person with the courage and the will to seek peace,” Haley said.

The Palestinians are seething at U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition last month of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a move that was criticized around the world and broke with decades of U.S. policy that the city’s status must be decided in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

“The United States remains deeply committed to helping the Israelis and Palestinians reach a historic peace agreement,” she said. “But we will not chase after a Palestinian leadership that lacks what is needed to achieve peace. To get historic results, we need courageous leaders.”

Palestinian U.N. envoy Riyad Mansour, who addressed the Security Council before Haley, described similar Israeli accusations that Abbas was “not a man of peace” as “appalling.”

“They are again attempting to distract the international community and evade responsibility for the political deadlock and deplorable situation on the ground by making such false, shameful claims,” he said.

The United States announced this month that it would withhold $65 million (£45.5 million) of $125 million (£87.6 million) that it had planned to send to the U.N. agency that helps Palestinian refugees (UNRWA). UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from U.N. states and the United states is the largest contributor.

U.N. Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council it was vital to maintain support for strengthening Palestinians institutions and services.

“Allowing the Palestinian project to backslide at this delicate stage risks further destabilising an already precarious situation. The recent cuts to UNRWA funding only reinforce these concerns,” he said.

Trump threatened on Thursday to withhold aid to the Palestinians if they did not pursue peace with Israel.

“The uncertainty and volatility of the current environment is hardening positions and sharpening the rhetoric on all sides, a situation that plays directly into the hands of extremists and increases the risk of another conflict,” Mladenov warned.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Susan Thomas