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Updated: September 16, 2011 00:20 IST

Israel, Palestinians head for U.N. showdown

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Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu look set for a U.N. showdown next week, with Mr. Abbas planning to push for membership for a Palestinian state and Mr. Netanyahu arguing against it.

“Despite the pressures that we face, Palestine goes to the U.N. on the 23rd of this month to seek admission as a full member,” Mr. Abbas told Egyptian TV on Wednesday.

On Thursday Mr. Netanyahu announced that he too would address the United Nations, to set out Israel's objections to the manoeuvre.

“The approach to the United Nations to seek full membership for the state of Palestine is a done deal and irreversible,” said Mr. Abbas, following discussions with the diplomatic Quartet's envoy Tony Blair.

The latest comments from the two sides come amid a diplomatic flurry, with envoys from the United States, the European Union and the Quartet holding talks with Palestinian and Israeli leaders to get them back into direct peace talks that stalled a year ago.

“We will see if any of them is carrying a credible offer that will allow us to look into it seriously,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki told foreign journalists in Ramallah on Thursday.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met Mr. Netanyahu on Wednesday and Thursday after talks with Mr. Abbas in Egypt. U.S. envoys Dennis Ross and David Hale were to meet Mr. Abbas in Ramallah.

“We are open to any suggestions or ideas that could come from any side in order to renew negotiations on a firm basis with clear terms of reference, a clear timetable and clear guarantees,” said Mr. Malki.

The Palestinian bid is strongly opposed by both Israel and the United States who say the only route to a Palestinian state is through bilateral talks.

“Israel wants peace, and for the past two-and-a-half years has been attempting to conduct negotiations,” said Mr. Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

“I decided to bring this message in a speech that I shall make to the General Assembly of the U.N. to which I shall travel next week,” he said.

“I thought that the right thing to do would be to talk to the United Nations, tell them things as they are”. “We know that peace is dependent on recognition and security. These needs arise in light of the recent upheavals in the Middle East, which affect us,” he added.

Previous talks collapsed after the expiry of an Israeli 10-month freeze on West Bank settlement building, with the Palestinians refusing to negotiate while Israel builds on land they want for a future state.

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