Middle East peace talks must resume without preconditions, Palestinian leader tells UN

President Mahmoud Abbas at a graduation ceremony in Gaza City, 17 August 2006. (MaanImages/Wesam Saleh)

The spirit of international cooperation that last month ended the deadly conflict in Lebanon should now be applied to resolve the question of Palestine, “the root of all the conflicts and wars” in the Middle East for many decades, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the United Nations General Assembly.

Addressing the Assembly’s annual debate, Mr. Abbas called for the unconditional resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and an end to the suffering of his people, warning of the devastating impact on the region if these issues are not resolved.

“Without resolving the question of Palestine, and the continuation of the occupation of Palestinian and Arab lands since 1967, the elements of tension and conflagration will keep the conflict alive, and will keep the door wide open to all forms of violence, terrorism, regional confrontations and global crises,” he said.

Mr. Abbas lamented that the Road Map, the peace plan sponsored by the diplomatic Quartet (comprised of the UN, the United States, the European Union and Russia), and other international initiatives “have reached a state of stagnation and even regression.”

He blamed Israel for imposing pre-conditions on talks and yet simultaneously maintaining a “frightful siege” of Palestinian territory that includes military checkpoints, the building of Jewish settlements and the demolition of Palestinian homes.

President Abbas said he has been trying in recent weeks to form a government of national unity, one that is bound by previous commitments made by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), including the recognition of Israel, the renunciation of violence and the entry into negotiations towards a two-State solution.

“I want my homeland Palestine to be a homeland, not a prison, independent and sovereign like all other peoples of this world. I want for Jerusalem to be the meeting point for the dialogue of all prophets - to be the capital of two neighbour States that live in peace and equality.”