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Obama rejects Palestinian UN statehood bid

Published yesterday (updated) 21/09/2011 21:34


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.

Grappling with 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 the globe.

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 veto threat.

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 security.

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.

Statehood drama

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 East.

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.

The speech 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.

His statements 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 Jerusalem. .

1 ) Obama is / Wrong
21/09/2011 18:14

Obama should tells the UN that TALKS WITHOUT COMPROMISE
( regarding borders, Jerusalem, and refugee return),
will maintain the situation, A WORLD WITHOUT PALESTINE.

2 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
21/09/2011 18:15
He probably wins the cigar for the 2nd-most blabberer at the U.N. this week (1st-prize cigar goes to our Prime Minister). As I've said before, on balance I deeply admire our PM but his mouth will blab even more. (I actually agree and admire even more Netanyahu's father who, like me, is adamantly opposed to a Palestinian nation in the W. Bank and Gaza.) There probably wasn't a damn thing new Obama said. The Palestinians are probably glad to see him exit the stage; so who's the next comedian ?

3 ) Julie / USA
21/09/2011 18:30
but we ALL know that zionists have emphatically stated they will NEVER agree to any of Pals' rights, so now Pals are going to the UN as they should do! GO, GO, GO PALS!!!!! with statehood, you have far more power to fight the zionist beast. negotiations can continue AFTER statehood. Abbas should not compromise and not delay the bid.

4 ) Richard Pearce / Calgary, Canada
21/09/2011 18:32
Well, Obama's speech was a grand example of using the heights of oratory to hide the heights of hypocrisy. Praising those in Egypt, Tunisia, etc who refused to settle for having to 'negotiate' with those who were oppressing them for their rights, negotiations which would have more to do with surrendering those rights, a bit here, a bit there, in exchange for promises that, despite showing no real interest in letting them have their rights, their oppresor would at some point be willing to change.

5 ) hassan mousa / palestine-nilin
21/09/2011 18:35
Mr Obama changed the historical facts that every body knows. Israel it self waged so many wars on it's neigbours since 1948.He was right when he said that Israel was built on the ashes of the Jewish catastrophe ,but ignored the fact the Palestinians have nothing to with that genocide and therefore are paying the price for a mistake they didn't do .He himself is of a background that suffered a lot of the a partheid system but turned a blind eye of the apartheid that Israel does to Palestinians.

6 ) christian palestinian / usa
21/09/2011 19:04
Obama should be ashamed of himself for ignoring human rights and justice in occupied Palestine. He has no integrity or conscience and because of this, America has become the laughing stock of the entire world. Anyway, the Palestinians have other options up their sleeves at the UN.

7 ) Carol Scheller / Switzerland
21/09/2011 19:47
Peace is hard work ? Try saying "Yes, you can" in this situation instead of "No, you can't". It just might work magic instead of your VERY long speech to the UN, President Obama.

8 ) Robby / USA
21/09/2011 19:55
6 ) christian palestinian / usa "Obama should be ashamed of himself for ignoring human rights and justice in occupied Palestine." We still fund the PA to the tune of around $500 million a year (your and my money) and we are still the largest contributor to the UNRWA. And we gave an extra $900 million in 2009 (might have been 2010). As for us becoming the laughing stock, do you think the anti-American crowd would change there minds if we didn't veto the bid? I don't.

9 ) ibra / pepep
21/09/2011 20:06
who made his speech, the AIPAC??

10 ) Obama is owned / US
21/09/2011 20:11
Martin Luther King is turning in his grave listening to this hypocrite of a President. the very essence of Obama being President of the U.S. is the result of the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960's when Negroes in America were regarded as sub-human in an extremely racist society that lasted 200 years... America & Obama are owned... Obama's legacy will be that of a failure and history will relate the first Black American President as being a true hypocrite of all time.....

11 ) Palestine is Coming / South Sudan
21/09/2011 20:38
Welcome from your friends in South Sudan, it only took us a couple of months to be included in the UN

13 ) Philip / Ireland
21/09/2011 21:47
.....there is a season ....turn, turn, turn, ................... Anyone who recognises the origin of these words, please remind Obama !!

14 ) mohamed / somalia
21/09/2011 22:08
he should return his nobel prize he does not deserve.

15 ) Joe Fattal / USA
21/09/2011 22:35
The US is giving millions in aid to the PA but now if they request to seek their statehood the US will stop their financial aids to the PA. It doesn't make any sense.

16 ) Colin Wright / USA
21/09/2011 22:38
It's official. We have a coward for a president. The worst of it is that it won't do him any good. The Republicans will always be able to out-grovel him when it comes to uncritically supporting Israel.

17 ) mohamed / somalia
21/09/2011 22:43
he is trying to save his neck

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