Xinhua (Interview)
June 13, 2012 - 12:00am

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Tuesday in an interview with Xinhua that the Palestinian bid for the United Nations' full recognition of an independent Palestinian state is "decisive" despite threats and warnings from the United States.

"This move will ensure substantial situation for the Palestinians, which is a recognition of the borders of their future independent Palestinian state established on the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, and would stop Israel's claims that the occupied territories are disputed lands," Erekat told Xinhua.

The Palestinian decision to demand a full UN recognition was made after they lost hope that Israel would freeze settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Temporarily, they don't oppose the idea of promoting their representation in the UN to an observer state, which is more feasible.

"The decision to apply to the UN for a recognition has been already taken by the executive committee of Palestine Liberation Organization, and now the Palestinian leadership started to implement it on the ground," said Erekat, who is a PLO executive committee member.

Last September, the Palestinians failed to gain a full UN membership and dropped their request at the UN Security Council. Their appeal didn't obtain support from the majority of over nine Security Council state members out of 15 total, as the United States threatened to veto the appeal.

Erekat expressed hope that when the Palestinians apply to the UN General Assembly for recognition this time, "we would be able to win over at least 170 member states out of 193 who fully support our demand," adding that the membership of the state of Palestine in the UN is a "natural right."

Earlier in June, the Arab League Committee to follow up the peace process announced its full support to the Palestinian decision to go to the UN General Assembly for promoting their position to an observing member state in the UN and all its organizations.

"The Palestinians and the Arabs are currently exerting tremendous efforts on all levels and make contacts with regional and international powers to succeed the Palestinian bid," Erekat said, adding that "no date had been set up yet for applying to the UN General Assembly."

The veteran negotiator clarified that the Non-aligned countries, the countries of the Islamic Organization as well as the Organization of Latin American and African countries "are all backing the Palestinian bid," adding "intensive contacts are made with the European Union countries in this respect."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who visited France last week, had stated that the Palestinian and European views concerning the stalled peace process are similar, adding "I hope that our views will be similar in terms of applying to the UN for the recognition."

"I don't want to say that all the European Union countries are supporting our bid, but I just want to remind when 11 member states in the UNESCO had voted for our bid, while five opposed and 11 abstained," said Erekat, adding "We hope that the number of those who support us will increase."

Meanwhile, Erekat praised the Russian and Chinese positions, adding that "the two countries are fully supporting the Palestinian cause and rights." He expected the United States will lead the biggest opposition against the Palestinian bid, as "the U. S. Congress threatened to cut off foreign aids to us."

"They also threatened to close down the office of the PLO in Washington if we go to the UN for recognition," said Erekat. "Such threats are not going to obstruct our determination, and such threats are totally rejected by our leadership and by our people."

The decision to go for the UN bid reflects the Palestinians' despair concerning the stalled peace process with Israel, which is sponsored by the United States. "If the United States really wants to keep sponsoring the peace process and really wants the two- state solution, it has to back the Palestinian bid in the UN."

Erekat held Israel responsible for the collapse of peace process, blaming it for the continued construction of settlements. "Just this week, it approved the building of 3,000 units. I think this is an evidence that the current government in Israel had given a sentence of failure to the peace process," the Palestinian negotiator said.

However, Erekat said that the move to gain the UN recognition " can never be an alternative to peace negotiations with Israel, which is the obligatory pass to the establishment of the Palestinian state." He added that any opportunity to resume the talks with Israel "is in Israel's hands only."

The Palestinians are seeking full Israeli cessation of settlement activities on the territories occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem in order to resume the peace talks. They also want Israel to free all prisoners in its jails and recognize an independent Palestinian state.

Erekat said that "these aren't conditions to resume peace talks, but Israeli commitments to implementing it is necessary for resuming the peace talks." He clarified that ties with Israel haven't been severed.

Meanwhile, Erekat reiterated that the Israeli plans of carrying out unilateral withdrawal to prepare to establish a Palestinian state with temporary borders on 55 percent of the Palestinian territories is rejected. "We would never be part of such plans."


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