Middle East

Palestinian head Abbas calls for international peace summit

Mahmoud Abbas addresses the UN Security Council (20/02/18) Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mahmoud Abbas said the situation for Palestinians was no longer bearable

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has called for an international peace conference to tackle the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

In a rare address to the UN Security Council, he said the situation was "no longer bearable" for Palestinians.

Israel's ambassador however said direct negotiations were the only way forward.

Hopes of restarting peace talks were dealt a blow when US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital, infuriating Palestinians.

Mr Abbas previously called the declaration the "slap of the century", saying the Palestinians would no longer accept US mediation.

The issue of Jerusalem goes to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Palestinians seek East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Israel considers the whole of Jerusalem as its indivisible capital.

'Part of the problem'

Mr Abbas told the Security Council that "to solve the Palestine question... it is essential to establish a multilateral international mechanism".

He blamed the deadlock in the peace process on the US declaration on Jerusalem, which he said violated international law, and on what he called Israel's "illegal activities" in the occupied territories.

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Media captionWhy the ancient city of Jerusalem is so important

"We call for the convening of an international peace conference by mid-2018 based on international law and the relevant UN resolutions," he said.

Such a conference would mark a departure from UN-backed direct on-off negotiations that have taken place between Israel and the Palestinians over the past 25 years.

The last round broke down amid acrimony in April 2014.

Israel has previously made clear it rejects the Palestinians' preference to internationalise the peace process in place of bilateral talks.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Israel's ambassador said Mr Abbas was avoiding directly negotiating with Israel

Responding to Mr Abbas, Israel's ambassador the UN Danny Danon accused the Palestinian leader of consistently avoiding direct negotiations.

"Today, once again, rather than driving just 12 minutes between Ramallah to Jerusalem he has chosen to fly 12 hours to New York to avoid the possibility of peace.

"Mr Abbas, you have made it clear with your words and with your actions that you are no longer part of the solution, you are the problem."

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Media captionTrump: "I don't know that [peace talks] will ever take place"

Accusing the Palestinian leader of incitement against Israel, Mr Danon said "after all these years of Abbas' rejectionism one thing is clear - when we extend a hand, Abbas extends a fist".

The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley urged Mr Abbas to "work towards a negotiated compromise that will improve the lives of the Palestinian people".

She said her government recognised Palestinian suffering and was "offering an outstretched hand to the Palestinian people in the cause of peace.

"The US stands ready to work with the Palestinian leadership... but we will not chase after you. The choice, Mr President, is yours."

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