Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday that he has opened talks with the world body on obtaining recognition of Palestine as a nonmember state.
The recognition campaign, to be formally launched Nov. 29 to avoid becoming an issue in the U.S. presidential election, seeks a status that would grant the Palestinian territories associate membership in U.N. organizations and representation in some of its bodies.
The bid, if successful, would allow the Palestinians to sign treaties and participate in some world body activities. But it represents a significant step down in ambitions to join the United Nations as a full-fledged member, a move made at last year's General Assembly that failed in the face of fierce U.S. and Israeli opposition.
U.S. law mandates that the government cease funding any U.N. agencies granting the Palestinian Authority full member-state status, said Stewart Patrick of the Council on Foreign Relations. He noted that U.S. funding for the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization was cut last year after the agency admitted Palestine into its ranks.
"We have begun intensive consultations with various regional organizations and member states aimed at having the General Assembly adopt a resolution considering the state of Palestine as a nonmember state of the United Nations during this session," Abbas said in his address to the annual gathering. Nonmember state status requires only a majority vote of the assembly.
"In our endeavor, we do not seek to delegitimize an existing state, that is Israel, but rather to assert the state that must be realized, that is Palestine," Abbas said.
He lashed out at Israel in the same address, though, for "the catastrophic danger of the racist Israeli settlement of our country," referring to the building of housing for Jewish Israelis in the areas of Jerusalem claimed by the Palestinians.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who followed Abbas at the General Assembly podium, warned that the two states will never resolve their differences "with libelous speeches at the U.N."
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-- Carol J. Williams in Los Angeles
Photo: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addressing the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday. Credit: John Moore / Getty Images