Obama to meet Palestinian leader amid UN crisis

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – US President Barack Obama will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas today to urge him to drop plans to ask the UN Security Council to recognize a Palestinian state despite US and Israeli objections.

The White House said Obama will meet Abbas at 6 pm (2200 GMT) on the sidelines of this week’s UN General Assembly session in New York. Obama is also due to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier today.
“With both the Israelis and the Palestinians the president will be able to say very directly why we believe action at the United Nations is not the way … to achieve a (Palestinian) state,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters.

Abbas has promised 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, one of five veto-wielding permanent members, says it will block.

The Obama administration and Israel both say 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 United Nations.
The drama over the Palestinian UN bid is playing out as Palestinian, Israeli and US leaders all grapple with the fallout from Arab uprisings that are raising new political tensions across the Middle East.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said he thought at least nine of the 15 members of the Security Council would back the Palestinian bid and urged the United States to get out of the way.

“We’re working towards it and I think we’ll manage it,” Malki told reporters. “We hope the United States will revise its position and be on the side of the majority of nations or countries who want to support the Palestinian right to have self determination and independence.”

A US veto in the Security Council would still block approval even if most other members agree — something that is far from certain.

But securing the nine votes necessary to claim a Security Council majority would allow the Palestinians to highlight the US veto as an obstacle, increasing the diplomatic risks for Washington.

It would also raise pressure on Israel, which despite its offer of direct peace talks has not made any of the concessions that the Palestinians say would make such talks possible. Senior diplomats from the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations — the Quartet of Middle East mediators — are meeting throughout the week but with little sign thus far of a breakthrough.

The Quartet has been trying to put together guidelines for future peace talks for months, so far without result. British Foreign Secretary William Hague acknowledged there had been no progress.

Even if the Palestinians file their Security Council application on Friday, an immediate vote is unlikely. This may allow more time for diplomacy aimed at restarting peace talks, said French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe.

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