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Shaath: UN membership would improve peace talks

Aug. 2, 2011 10:11 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 4, 2011 12:20 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Fatah central committee member Nabil Shaath said Tuesday that Palestine's bid for UN membership would improve the chances of negotiations with Israel, official Palestinian Authority media reported.

"By seeking recognition, we make negotiations more possible, more equal and more doable," Shaath said.

Speaking to members of the PA's diplomatic corps, Shaath dismissed criticisms that the UN campaign was a unilateral move, the PA news agency Wafa reported.

Shaath said every country had the right to declare independence unilaterally. Recognition followed via bilateral relations, and finally world recognition could be achieved multilaterally, he said.

Israeli media reported Monday that the Israeli government was working on a package of principles to draw Palestinians back to the negotiating table and head off their UN campaign.

"The assumption is that if this process succeeds, the Palestinians will withdraw their proposal for unilateral action at the UN," an Israeli government official told AFP

But Shaath insisted that all decision making bodies were committed to seeking membership of the UN regardless of whether negotiations resumed.

Shaath said Israeli President Shimon Peres had canceled a planned meeting with his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas to discuss Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's initiatives to resume peace talks.

Peres canceled the meeting because Netanyahu changed his mind and decided not to offer anything, Shaath said.

Palestinians are seeking recognition based on UN resolution 181, which called for a Palestinian state on 44 percent of historic Palestine.

But Shaath said the Palestinian leadership only sought a state in the West Bank and Gaza.

"We are not asking for the 44 percent of the land given to us in resolution 181, but only the principle of it."

Israel and the US openly oppose the Palestinian bid for UN membership, but Shaath expressed hope that the American government would not veto the move.

He warned that a US veto would reflect badly on its image in the Arab world.

Talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been on hold since last September, grinding to a halt shortly after their relaunch earlier the same month over the issue of settlement construction.

Israel has declined to renew a partial settlement freeze that expired shortly after the direct talks began, and the Palestinians have said they will not negotiate while Israel builds on occupied land they want for a future state.

With talks on ice, the Palestinians have instead pushed forward with the plan to seek UN membership this September.

AFP contributed to this report.
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