VIDEO - "Israel must choose between settlements and peace," Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
told the UN General Assembly in New York on Saturday.
He called on Israel
to stand behind its past commitments, and protested the contempt for law in east Jerusalem, "occupied Palestine's capital."
Abbas also emphasized that the Palestinians are ready for and desire a peace agreement, saying such an agreement would be possible if Israel withdraws to the pre-1967 borders and allows a Palestinian state to have its capital in east Jerusalem.
The Palestinian leader told the General Assembly that using his "hand that is injured from the Israeli occupation and violence," he is extending an olive branch.
In his speech, Abbas said the Palestinians would expend "every sincere effort" to reach a peace agreement with Israel within a year "based on the Arab peace initiative, the Road map and the two-state solution."
|Abbas addresses General Assembly (Reuters)|
He did not refer to Sunday's expiry of an Israeli freeze on new settlement construction in the West Bank. However, he made clear that Israel would have to cease all settlement activities if the direct negotiations are to succeed.
Abbas accused Israel of committing "crimes" in Jerusalem and the territories. "Israel is a country that is above the law – destroys homes, expands settlements, erects a racist fence, makes arrests and oppresses.
"East Jerusalem is the capital of independent Palestine. The Israeli measures are illegal," he said.
Abbas at UN building, Saturday (Photo: AFP)
The Palestinian leader said his demands regarding settlement construction do not constitute "preconditions to the peace process" and are in accordance with "past agreements, from the beginning of the peace process."
Abbas said the Israeli government must be forced to "live up to its commitments, halt all settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and remove the apartheid wall.
"Israel must choose between peace and the continuation of settlements," he said.
Turning his attention to Gaza, Abbas said Israel must immediately lift its "illegal" blockade of the Hamas-ruled territory and "end the citizens' suffering."
The Palestinian leader met US Middle East envoy George Mitchell at a New York hotel before talks with other Arab leaders, a Palestinian source said Saturday.
The US administration also remained in touch with Israeli leaders, according to State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley.
"We are doing everything we can to keep the parties in direct talks," Crowley said in a Twitter message.
Abbas met US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday night and in Washington, Obama kept his schedule largely free so he could take calls, officials said.
Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Yitzhak Molcho, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's point man on the peace talks, were also in New York to aid compromise efforts, Israeli radio reported.
Abbas has repeatedly threatened to break off the fragile negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
over the settlements. The US-supervised talks are aimed at reaching a peace agreement within a year.
Netanyahu, whose rightist coalition government includes pro-settler parties, has so far deflected US President Barack Obama's pleas to extend the freeze. But he has also said renewed construction in the settlements might be on a reduced scale.
Reuters contributed to the report