The French and US presidents planned to heap pressure on their Palestinian counterpart Wednesday in a concerted push to persuade Mahmoud Abbas to end his bid for full UN membership and to instead seek upgraded status in the world body.
Nicolas Sarkozy, the French leader, will make his pitch during a speech at the opening session of the UN General Assembly. After he speaks to the world body, President Barack Obama will likewise argue against the Palestinian drive for UN membership when he meets with Abbas on Wednesday.
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US officials conceded they cannot stop Abbas from officially launching his case for the Security Council's approval of the statehood effort, but also make the case for the Palestinian leader to essentially drop the move for statehood recognition after delivering his letter of intent to the UN.
Abbas was expected to deliver a formal request for statehood recognition on Friday when he speaks to the General Assembly. But it could take weeks or months for the UN to act on the Palestinians' request.
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And while Obama will formally ask Abbas not to pursue the statehood bid, the mission is actually directed at containing the fallout by urging the Palestinian leader not to push for an actual vote in the Council, where the US has promised a veto. A delay would give international peacemakers time to produce a statement that would be the basis for resumed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
"The president will be able to say very directly why we believe that action at the United Nations is not the way to achieve a Palestinian state," said Ben Rhodes, the White House deputy national security adviser.
He noted that Abbas has indicated his intent to go the Security Council, but said Obama "has made it clear that we do not believe that that will lead to a Palestinian state, that we oppose such efforts."
Obama will also meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday.
Netanyahu issues dire warnings
Sarkozy met with Abbas on Tuesday, and diplomats close to the talks said the French leader told the Palestinian leader that he would outline a proposal for the Palestinians to seek upgraded status with the General Assembly, where no member holds a veto. The resolution would be designed to make Palestine a non-member observer state, raising its status from that of permanent observer. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private talks.
With Abbas determined to seek membership rather than upgraded status, the Palestinian delegation relentlessly knocked on diplomatic doors at the UN trying to sell their case for international recognition.
Netanyahu issued dire warnings against hasty action as he boarded his jet for New York. Obama plans to meet with Netanyahu as well as Abbas.
Abbas has rejected all attempts to steer him away from formally submitting an application for full UN membership.
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