Obama rejects Palestinian UN statehood bid
Published yesterday (updated) 21/09/2011 21:34
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -
US President Barack Obama on Wednesday rejected Palestinian plans to
seek UN blessing for statehood and urged a return to peace talks with
Israel as he tried to head off a looming diplomatic disaster.
Addressing the UN General Assembly, Obama -- whose earlier peace efforts
accomplished little -- insisted Middle East peace "will not come through
statements and resolutions" at the world body and put the onus on the
two sides to break a yearlong impasse.
"There is no short cut to
the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace is hard work,"
Obama told an annual gathering of world leaders.
economic woes and low poll numbers at home and growing doubts about his
leadership abroad, Obama is wading into Middle East diplomacy at a
critical juncture for his presidency and America's credibility around
He faced the daunting test of Washington's eroding
influence in the region in his last-ditch bid to dissuade the
Palestinians from going ahead with a push for statehood in the UN
Security Council this week in defiance of Israeli objections and a US
Obama attempted to strike a delicate balance as he
took the UN podium. He sought to reassure Palestinians he was not
abandoning his pledge to help them achieve eventual statehood while also
placating any Israeli concerns about Washington's commitment to their
Members of the General Assembly, where pro-Palestinian
sentiment is high, listened politely but had only a muted response to
Obama's 36-minute speech.
There was widespread skepticism about
Obama's chances for success -- not least because of deeply entrenched
differences between the two sides -- and he may not be able to do much
more than contain the damage.
The Obama administration says that
only direct peace talks can lead to peace with the Palestinians, who in
turn say almost two decades of fruitless negotiation has left them no
choice but to turn to the world body.
Obama followed his speech
with a round of talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
who echoed the president's assertion that renewed negotiations were the
only path to a peace deal but offered no new ideas how to get back to
the table. He said, however, that the Palestinians' UN statehood effort
"will not succeed."
Signalling European patience was also wearing
thin after years of halting US-led diplomacy, French President Nicolas
Sarkozy proposed an ambitious timetable to resume peace talks within a
month and achieve a definitive deal in a year.
The drama over the Palestinian UN bid is playing out as US, Israeli
and Palestinian leaders all struggle with the fallout from Arab
uprisings that are raising new political tensions across the Middle
It also comes as Israel finds itself more isolated than it
has been in decades and confronts Washington with the risk that, by
again shielding its close ally, the United States will inflame Arab
distrust when Obama's outreach to the Muslim world is already faltering.
Taking note of deep frustrations over lack of progress on the
Israeli-Palestinian front, he said: "Israelis must know that any
agreement provides assurances for their security. Palestinians deserve
to know the territorial basis of their state."
He was due to meet
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas later on the UN sidelines.
With the looming showdown overshadowing the rest of Obama's UN agenda,
failure to defuse the situation will not only mark a diplomatic debacle
for Obama but also serve as a stark sign of the new limits of American
clout in the Middle East.
Obama also used his wide-ranging speech
to tout his support for democratic change sweeping the Arab world, urge
further UN sanctions against Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and call on
Iran and North Korea to meet their nuclear obligations -- twin standoffs
that have eluded his efforts at resolution.
Senior diplomats from
the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations --
the "Quartet" of Middle East mediators -- were scrambling for a
compromise but with little sign of a breakthrough.
offered no new prescriptions for Israeli-Palestinian peace from Obama,
who laid out his clearest markers for a final deal in May and angered
Israel by declaring its pre-war 1967 borders as the starting point for
any future negotiations.
Obama will urge Abbas face-to-face
against going through with his plan to present UN Secretary General Ban
Ki-moon with a membership application on Friday, setting the stage for a
Security Council vote that the United States says it will block.
In separate talks, Obama had been expected to ask Netanyahu -- who has
had strained relations with the US president -- to help coax Abbas back
to negotiations and also curb dangerous new tensions with Egypt and
Turkey, two of Washington's top regional partners.
But Obama was
considered unlikely to lean too hard on the hawkish Israeli leader for
concessions to the Palestinians, mindful he cannot afford to alienate
Israel's broad base of support among American voters as he seeks
re-election in 2012.
Most analysts remain skeptical that the
latest diplomacy by Obama and others will be enough to spur serious
negotiations after earlier efforts hit a dead end.
Obama Tells UN: "Only Talks Will Create Palestinian State"
Wednesday September 21, 2011 18:30 by Alaa Ashkar - IMEMC & Agencies
US President, Barack Obama, told the UN General Assembly that the
Palestinians deserve a state of their own, but added that this state can
only be established through direct peace talks with Israel, the Maan
News agency stated.
“I am convinced that there is no short cut
to the end of a conflict that has continued for decades", Obama said,
"Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN”.
“Ultimately, it is the Israelis and Palestinians – not us- who must
reach agreement on the issue that divides them: on borders and security,
on refugees and Jerusalem, peace is based on concessions” he added.
He also reconfirmed that "U.S. commitments to Israel’s security are
unshakable", urging allies to recognize the two-state solution.
During his speech at the opening ceremony of the 66th Session of the
General Assembly, Obama stated that "the only road to peace is through
negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians".
He added that
peace cannot be achieved through resolutions made by the UN, adding that
the Palestinians deserve a state, but this state "can only be achieved
through direct peace talks with Israel.
Obama further stated that
"the Jewish people built their state under tough situations", and that
"Israel is surrounded by neighbors who fought wars against it", the Maan
News Agency reported.
The U.S president also said that
Washington believes that peace in not only the absence of war, but the
fight against ignorance, disease and terrorism.
did not address the plight of millions of Palestinian refugees who were
displaced and forced out of their homeland when Israel was created in
1948 in the historic land of Palestine.
He also failed to
mention the ongoing Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people,
and the ongoing settlement construction and expansion in the occupied
West Bank and in occupied East Jerusalem.
Obama also did not
mention the fact that Israel ignored several Security Council and United
Nations resolutions calling for a full withdrawal from the Palestinian
territories occupied by Israel in 1967, including occupied East
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