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Current talks ‘last chance’ for just peace with Israel, Palestinian leader says

Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine. UN Photo/Evan Schneider
Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

NEW YORK – Warning that time is running out, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas today called on the United Nations to end Israeli settlement building on Palestinian land and thus giving a last chance for renewed peace talks to resolve the Middle East conflict within the allotted nine-month timeframe.

“The window of peace is narrowing and the opportunities are diminishing,” he told the General Assembly on the third day of its annual General Debate, addressing it for the first time as President of the State of Palestine following its acceptance last November as a non-member observer State to the UN.

“The current round of negotiations appears to be a last chance to realize a just peace,” he said of the United States-sponsored talks that seek to resolve the 65-year conflict by establishing two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace within secure borders. “Merely thinking of the catastrophic and frightening consequences of failure must compel the international community to intensify efforts to seize upon this chance.”

Mr. Abbas painted a bleak picture of the past 20 years during which the initial hopes of peace between Palestine and Israel raised by the so-called Oslo accords and their roadmap to a two-State solution have been shattered by the continuation of intense Israeli settlement construction which he said aims to change the facts on the ground in the occupied Palestinian territory,

“The international community is asked to remain alert to condemn and stop any actions on the ground that would undermine negotiations – and I refer here, above all, to the continuation of settlement construction on our Palestinian land, particularly in Jerusalem,” he declared.

“There is an international consensus – among the countries of the world, international and regional organizations and the International Court of Justice – on the illegality and illegitimacy of these settlements.”

He reaffirmed, as he had last year, that he was not seeking to delegitimize an existing State – Israel – but to consecrate the legitimacy of a State that must exist, which is Palestine.

“I assure you that we shall respect all of our commitments and foster the most conducive atmosphere for the continuation of these negotiations in a serious, intensive manner and provide the guarantees for its success, aimed at reaching a peace accord within nine months,” he said of the negotiations that began in August.

The objective of the negotiations is to secure a lasting peace accord that leads immediately to the establishment of the independence of a fully sovereign State of Palestine and, among other aims, the resolution of the plight of Palestine refugees.

“I am confident that the Israeli people want peace, and that its majority supports a two-State solution,” Mr. Abbas said, outlining a future in which “Israel will gain the recognition of 57 Arab and Moslem countries and where the states of Palestine and Israel will coexist in peace, in order to realize each people’s hopes for progress and prosperity.”

Referring to the ongoing violence he noted that since the start of this year, 27 Palestinian citizens have been killed and 951 have been wounded by the bullets of the occupation, while 5,000 Palestinian “fighters for freedom and peace” are held captive in occupation prisons.

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