UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Diplomats scrambled yesterday to head off a clash over Palestinian plans to seek full UN recognition with little visible sign of progress and a deadline less than 24 hours away.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad briefly seized the spotlight at the United Nations General Assembly, accusing the United States of using the Sept 11, 2001, attacks as a pretext for attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan and condemning western support for Zionism.
But attention focused on the crisis transfixing this year’s UN meeting. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is ready to submit his application to the UN Security Council today despite pressure from US President Barack Obama to forgo the UN option and resume direct talks with Israel.
Obama’s meetings with Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday ended with no breakthrough, illustrating stark new limits of US influence over a process spinning in unpredictable directions.
Obama, whose personal efforts to restart the Middle East peace process have proved fruitless, on Wednesday declared that direct talks were the only path to Palestinian statehood, underscoring unbending US opposition to the UN plan.
Obama said the United States will veto any Palestinian move in the Security Council — a step that would isolate Washington with its ally Israel at a moment of unprecedented political turmoil across the region.
“We understand that the Palestinian people feel like they have waited very long, and far too long, to have their own state. We want to help them achieve that state as quickly as possible,” US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told US National Public Radio.
“But the bottom line is there’s no way to accomplish that short of the two sides coming back to the negotiating table,” Rice said, calling the Palestinian UN bid “unwise and counterproductive.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who had her own meetings with Abbas and Netanyahu, said the United States would continue to push for a durable, negotiated peace.
“Regardless of what happens tomorrow in the United Nations, we remain focused on the day after,” Clinton told reporters.
Whatever happens at the United Nations, Palestinians will remain under Israeli occupation and any nominal state would lack recognized borders or real independence and sovereignty.
The cash-strapped Palestinians face their own political divisions, and may also incur financial retribution from Israel and the United States that could hobble their efforts to build the framework of government for their homeland.