Palestinians to Ask for UN Recognition

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Agence France Presse

Palestinians to Ask for UN Recognition

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Palestinians have marked Nov. 15 as their Independence Day since 1988, when the Palestine National Council unilaterally declared statehood in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)

RAMALLAH, West Bank - The Palestinians said on Sunday they plan to ask for UN recognition of their independence, amid mounting frustration over the stalled peace process as Israel warned against any unilateral moves.

"We have reached a decision ... to go to the UN Security Council to ask for recognition of an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital and with June 1967 borders," chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP.

He was referring to the West Bank, Gaza Strip and mostly Arab east Jerusalem that Israel captured during the 1967 Six-Day War.

"We're going to seek support from EU countries and Russia and other countries" for the measure, he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the move could lead to unilateral action from the Jewish state. Israel warns Palestinians over seeking recognition

"There is no substitute for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority," Netanyahu said in a radio address.

"Any unilateral action will undo the framework of past accords and lead to unilateral actions from Israel."

He called on the Palestinian Authority to restart negotiations "without preconditions."

Erakat's comments came amid growing frustration among the Palestinians with so-far ineffective US efforts to relaunch peace negotiations with Israel that were suspended during the Gaza war at the turn of the year.

They mark the latest in a series of options the Palestinians have warned they could take if the Middle East peace process remained stalled.

Others include unilaterally declaring independence, asking the UN to determine final borders of their promised state, dissolving the Palestinian Authority (PA) and seeking equal rights within Israel.

Hardline Israeli Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau said that if the Palestinians took unilateral steps, Israel should annex the parts of the West Bank that contain major Jewish settlement blocs.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak, meanwhile, warned that without a peace deal, Israel will face a rise in international support for either unilateral Palestinian statehood or a bi-national state.

"Neither of these threats will happen tomorrow, but we shouldn't disregard their importance," he said.

The Israeli information and diaspora minister, Yuli Edelstein, said Erakat's comments "prove that among the Palestinian leaders, there are many who still believe that they can achieve their goals through violence and terrorism."

"I hope the international community will not cooperate in this project and will speak out clearly in favour of the only possible approach, namely direct negotiations," Edelstein told AFP.

Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad said he was intent on building institutions for a de-facto Palestinian state, which he has previously said he was aiming to complete by 2011.

"What we're concerned with, the PA and my government, is to get ready for statehood, to prepare institutions of the state," he told reporters in Ramallah. "That's not the same as declaring statehood."

"That's the goal and when we approach it this way, we stand a very good chance of getting the support, sympathy and encouragement of the international community," he said.

The administration of US President Barack Obama has so far been unable to convince Israelis and Palestinians to resume their peace talks amid deep disagreements on the issue of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

The Palestinians insist on a freeze of all settlement activity before talks restart, while Israel is offering a temporary and limited ease on construction, saying the issue will be resolved during the negotiations.

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