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Video & Transcript: Palestine's Abbas at the UN General Assembly

See also Palestine Video and Transcript: Mahmoud Abbas Makes Statehood Bid at UN General Assembly (23 September 2011)

On Friday, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas spoke to the UN General Assembly, blaming Israel for its continued construction of settlements and of the separation wall isolating Jerusalem from the West Bank. While praising Washington's active policy in the region, he said that time was running out for a resolution and the cost of peace was increasing. Moreover, he depicted Hamas, without mentioning the group's name, as the perpetrators of a coup in Gaza,  while assuring the Assembly that Palestinians will form a unity government with the assistance of Egypt.

Transcript of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas's speech at the United Nations General Assembly:

Mr. President, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, the suffering of the Palestinian people as a result of Israel's colonial occupation is crystal clear to the world.

Since the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including east Jerusalem in 1967, Israel continues with its settlement policy on all Palestinian land, especially in holy Jerusalem, where that policy is currently being accelerated and escalated through various means including the seizure of the homes of Palestinian inhabitants in the city and the imposition of restrictions and even preventing Palestinians from building and sometimes from repairing their homes, while new settlement neighborhoods are being established. And Jerusalem is becoming completely isolated from its surroundings because of the illegal settlements and the apartheid wall.

We now face a unique situation. If international law stipulates the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force, how can we, then, deal with the current situation where Israeli settlement policy will undermine the goal of establishing a geographically contiguous Palestinian state and implementation of the will of the international consensus that has been expressed in the various resolutions and principles, including the roadmap, which we all agreed upon and which is based on the principle of land for peace and ending the occupation that began in 1967.

Immense efforts have been exerted and many conferences have been held during the past years, particularly since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. Yet all of this has not led to a conclusion of this conflict. President Barack Obama has given much hope to our people and the peoples of the region when he announced his vision of a peace agreement on the basis of a two-state solution and the cessation of all settlement activities. We welcomed the active American diplomacy to revive the peace process, and all efforts of the international quartet and its parties, the United Nations, the European Union, and the Russian Federation and the United States.

All of these active efforts and initiatives, which have been welcomed and supported by us and by the Arab states, are, however, confronted with Israeli intransigence, which refuses to adhere to the requirements for relaunching the peace process. How is it conceivable that negotiations can be held on the borders and on Jerusalem at the same time that Israeli bulldozers are working to change the reality on the ground with the aim of creating a new reality and imposing borders as Israel desires? How can one conceive holding negotiations without agreement on the terms of preference and the objective end goal of these negotiations that the whole world has unanimously agreed upon, namely ending the Israeli occupation of the territories occupied in 1967, establishing the state of Palestinian with Jerusalem as its capital, achieving a just and agreed-upon solution to the question of Palestinian refugees on the basis of resolution 194 of 1948 and achieving peace on all Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese tracts as affirmed (ph) by the Arab Peace Initiative which provides a precious opportunity that must be seized upon to achieve peace.

In this regard, I would like to express our deep appreciation for the important speech delivered before this august (ph) body two days ago by President Obama, in which he affirmed the necessity for ending the occupation that began in 1967 and the legitimacy of the settlements. He also stressed the necessity for establishing an independent, sovereign and viable Palestinian state and for addressing all of the finance status issues in the negotiations, foremost among these Jerusalem, refugees, borders, water, settlements, and others. We reiterate that adherence to these principles and basis, in addition to a complete freeze of all settlement activities, can salvage the peace process and open horizon for its success.

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, I reaffirm the eagerness of the Palestine Liberation Organization to achieve a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace in accordance with the resolutions of international legitimacy. At the same time, I caution that the settlement policy and the building of the separation wall, which continue to be pursued by the Israeli occupation, will abort opportunities to relaunch the peace process.

Time is running out and the risks are becoming greater as a result of the continued suffering of the Palestinian people under the last remaining occupation in the world. We call upon the international community to uphold international law and international legitimacy and to exert pressure on Israel to cease its settlement activities, to comply with the signed agreements, and desist from the policies of the occupation and colonial settlements, to release the 10,000 -- correction, the approximately 11,000 prisoners and detainees, to lift -- and to lift the unjust siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, which was subjected months ago to a devastating aggression, causing thousands of casualties among civilians, wreaking unprecedented destruction of infrastructure and public facilities, including even hospitals, mosques, schools, and United Nations facilities.

Ladies and gentlemen, our people, which continues to adhere to its (ph) strikes and to remain in its homeland despite all of the suffering caused by the arrests, the blockade, and the killings, is also keen to end the internal division and to restore national unity. Our sister, Egypt, is making commendable efforts to achieve. And in spite of all our suffering from occupation and its practices, we continue to work to build and develop our national institutions. We have made significant achievements in this regard, both at the level of upholding the rule of law and public order and promoting economic and social development despite the harsh conditions of the occupation and the blockade. We continue to make every possible effort for the success of the efforts of our brothers in Egypt to end the ongoing coup in the Gaza Strip and to restore our national unity by resorting to ballot boxes and holding presidential and legitimate (ph) elections on their constitutional date under the supervision and control of Arab and Islamic countries, the United Nations, and the international community. Thus, democracy will be firmly institutionalized in our political life.

Mr. President, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, hope will remain alive in our shores (ph) and we will not despair of regaining our rights on the basis of relevant resolutions of the United Nations. The historic rule of which we reaffirm for attaining peace and upholding the principle of might for right and not right for might.

From this podium I conclude by reaffirming our commitment to the road map plan, the Arab Peace Initiative and to all terms of reference of the political process. And we call upon all parties to respect and abide by them, to provide the opportunity to launch a successful and effective peace process.

We are confident that all our brothers in the sisterly Arab countries will adhere to the Arab peace initiative as a basis for safeguarding our rights and to open the way towards real peaceful relations once occupation is ended and the independent state of Palestine is established.

With my profound thanks and appreciation for your kind attention, I thank you, and God's blessing be upon you all.


Middle East Inside Line: Talks with Iran To Start in Turkey; No Progress in Israel-Palestine Discussions

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IRAN NUKESDirect Talks with Iran on 1 October: The Jerusalem Post reports, from a senior European Union official that "talks on Iran's nuclear program will likely be held in Turkey". Referring to the meeting, scheduled for 1 October, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said: "The Americans will be present in a formalized manner. This is new."

Europe is ready and waiting for a positive outcome from direct talks between Iranians and the Washington-led international community. Simultaneously, it seems that the US has given consent to Ankara's willingness to be the "bridge" in these negotiations.

No Progress in Israel-Palestine Talks: U.S. Mideast special envoy George Mitchell met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday. Haaretz reports that the talks were fruitless and no agreement came out at the end of talks.

After rounds of meetings, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat blamed Israel for stalling the resumption of peace talks and insisted that all settlement building must stop. Mitchell also could not get "sufficient" concessions from Netanyahu, as the Israeli Prime Minister rejected concessions on "the natural growth" of the West Bank settlements, on the planned construction of 3,000 new apartments in the West Bank, and on his claim of Israeli ownership of East Jerusalem.

Mitchell said the U.S. is committed to the resumption of peace talks and that he hoped to bring this phase of the effort to a positive conclusion in the coming weeks. The envoy is hoping he can bring Netanyahu and Abbas together with President Barack Obama at the openning of the UN General Assembly session next week. Aides of Abbas reportedly said that he might agree to an informal meeting with Netanyahu in New York.

A Palestinian State: Previewing the Mitchell Talks in Israel

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palestine flag2When Salam Fayyad, the Prime Minister of the West Bank, said in August that a de facto state could be founded in two years. the first reaction came from Israeli Foreigm Minister Avigdor Lieberman : "The Palestinians’ unilateral initiatives do not contribute to a positive dialogue between the parties."

Less than a month has passed and Lieberman may count himself lucky not to be hearing his President's words as Shimon Peres tours Africa. According to Peres, Salam Fayyad is a "Palestinian [David] Ben-Gurion," the first leader of modern Israel.

Meanwhile, according to Haaretz, a senior diplomatic source said on Saturday that the proposal of the European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, for the United Nations to accept Palestine as a full member within two years, was made with the support at the highest levels of the U.S. administration. Palestinian and European Union sources told Haaretz that Israel's talks with US special envoy George Mitchell, who arrived in the country on Saturday night, will initially focus on determining the permanent border between Israel and the West Bank. Although Palestinians want to draw temporary border lines before the final agreement, a mutual determination on borders next week would constitute an "early recognition of Palestine" by Israelis.

Despite obstacles such as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's non-negotiable position on the status of Jerusalem and on the right of return for Palestinian refugees, both sides are expected to find common ground through the exchange of land rather than a focus on the pre-1967 borders.

In the event a final agreement on the settlement freeze issue next week, a tripartite meeting is expected in New York between the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, Netanyahu, and President Obama at the UN General Assembly this month.

Middle East Inside Line: Israel and Hamas Manoeuvre on Settlements Policy

s-MIDEAST-ISRAEL-POLITICS-largeIsrael Government Moves for Common Line on Settlements: On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel would likely reach a final plan with George Mitchell during the American envoy's visit to Israel this week.

Dealing with increasing criticisms from his Likud Party, the Prime Minister held meetings with some Likud cabinet ministers and members of Parliament to get their support for a freeze on construction in the West Bank settlements. Netanyahu's meetings came as Defense Minister Ehud Barak gave partial approval for 500 new housing units to be constructed in the West Bank, with 2000 more to be approved on Monday morning. A source in the Prime Minister's office said Netanyahu did not use the word "moratorium" or "freeze" but described the proposed measure as "reducing the scale of construction".

While the European Union reiterated its call for a "total settlement freeze," Washington sharpened its tone:
Continued settlement activity is inconsistent with Israel's commitment under the road map.... The administration of President Barack Obama does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement expansion and we urge that it stop. We are working to create a climate in which negotiations can take place, and such actions make it harder to create such a climate.

Meanwhile, Israel and Hamas Stand Tough: On Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai told Likud Party members:
The postponement in construction is a strategic delay... We won't give up on building in Jerusalem and will still build hundreds of construction units. We are looking ahead, here.

On the other side, Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal warned Arab states:
There is an Israeli effort to avoid the American demands... We warn against any Arab rush toward normalization.