Abbas calls for peace conference in rare UN speech
NEW YORK - Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas on Tuesday called for an international conference to be held by mid-2018 to pave the way for recognition of Palestinian statehood as part of a wider Middle East peace process.
In a rare address to the UN Security Council, Abbas said he would step up efforts to achieve full UN membership for Palestine and urged countries that have yet to recognize it to do so.
"To solve the Palestine question, it is essential to establish a multilateral international mechanism emanating from an international conference," Abbas said.
His address to the top UN body came amid simmering global concern over President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Trump's decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem infuriated the Palestinians, who declared that Washington could no longer play a role as lead mediator in the Middle East peace process.
Abbas said his proposed conference should lead to full UN membership for the state of Palestine, mutual recognition of Israel and Palestine, and the creation of a new international mechanism to reach a final settlement.
The Palestinian leader immediately left the council chamber following his address, leaving Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon to complain that he was once again "running away" from dialogue.
The address came just weeks after US Ambassador Nikki Haley launched a scathing attack on Abbas and accused him of lacking the courage needed for peace.
Haley was accompanied to Tuesday's council meeting by Jason Greenblatt, the US envoy for Middle East peace, and Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in law and adviser on Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
The Trump administration is preparing a new peace plan even though chances for agreement appear dim.
The Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state and UN resolutions call on countries to refrain from moving their embassies to the city until its status is resolved in an Israeli-Palestinian deal.
In December, the General Assembly voted 128-9, with 35 abstentions, to reject the US decision to recognize Jerusalem.
That vote in the 193-nation assembly came after 14 of the 15 council members voted in favor of a similar measure. The United States vetoed that draft resolution.
Tensions have also flared over the US decision to cut funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).
The United Nations granted Palestine the status of a non-member observer state in 1992, but an upgrade to full membership would require unanimous backing from the Security Council -- an unlikely outcome, given the near-certainly of a US veto.