Mahmoud Abbas urges UN to set timeline for ending Israeli occupation
Palestinian Authority president says he feels confident ‘real peace’ can be achieved
President Mahmoud Abbas: “The United Nations bears a legal, political, moral and humanitarian obligation to end this occupation and enable the Palestinian people to live in freedom and prosperity in their independent state of Palestine.” Photograph: Kevin Hagen/Getty
The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has warned that the “two-state solution is in jeopardy”, as he called on the United Nations to “bring an end to Israeli occupation of the state of Palestine within a set timeframe”.
In a lengthy speech to the UN general assembly, Mr Abbas warned that if the promise of a two-state solution was to be destroyed, Palestinians would have no choice but to “continue the struggle and demand full rights for all inhabitants of historic Palestine”.
Earlier this year, US president Donald Trump appeared to question the need for a two-state solution to the long-running Israel-Palestinian conflict, stating: “I am looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.” An abandonment of the principle which has underpinned peace talks for decades would mark a dramatic shift in the international community’s approach to the issue.
Addressing delegates on Wednesday, Mr Abbas said the breakdown of the two-state solution – which envisages a separate Palestinian state – would lead to a “one-state reality with two systems – apartheid”.
He said that, since addressing the assembly last year, Israel had “relentlessly pursued its settlement campaign on our land, in contravention of all international conventions”. He said the international community, as well as Israel, was bearing “the shame for continuation of this occupation”.
“The United Nations bears a legal, political, moral and humanitarian obligation to end this occupation and enable the Palestinian people to live in freedom and prosperity in their independent state of Palestine.”
Earlier in the day, the Palestinian leader held a bilateral meeting with Mr Trump during which the US president pledged to prioritise bringing peace to the Middle East.
“For so many years, I’ve been hearing about peace between Israel and the Palestinians . . . We’re going to see what we can do,” the US president said. “There will be no promises. So many people have talked about it and it’s never happened. We are fighting very hard, we are trying very hard . . . if we can do it, it would be a great, great legacy for everybody. So let’s see what happens. Good luck everybody, good luck.”
Mr Abbas expressed optimism that a deal could be done. Speaking alongside Mr Trump, he said his comments “give us the assurance and the confidence that we are on the verge of real peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis”.
Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is also attending the 72nd general assembly, addressed delegates on Tuesday and held a bilateral meeting with Mr Trump earlier in the week.
Iran nuclear deal
In a speech that focused heavily on the threat from Iran, the Israeli leader urged the international community to modify the Iran nuclear deal or pull out of the accord. “Change it or cancel it,” he said, echoing the Trump administration’s view of the shortcomings of the Iran deal.
Mr Trump held a series of bilateral meetings throughout Wednesday, including with British prime minister Theresa May, King Abdullah of Jordan and Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sissi (the second time he has met the controversial leader who was shut out by the Obama administration). He also hosted a lunch with African leaders. Speaking following his meeting with King Abdullah, Mr Trump praised the Jordanian king for leading the fight against terrorism and accepting Syrian refugees.
Meanwhile, Ms May, who is due to deliver a key speech on Brexit on Friday in Florence, used her UN address to call for a united effort to fight against terrorism, including the use of the internet to facilitate terrorism and extremism. She also said Britain would withhold some of its funding to the United Nations unless reforms were implemented.