UNITED NATIONS: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for an international conference to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict and urged Israel to drop its opposition to a meeting that would address all outstanding issues.
He said on Wednesday the so-called Quartet of key international players trying to promote Mideast peace â€” the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia â€” should “play the role of an honest intermediary and guarantor” of the agreements reached at the conference.
Abbas made the proposal in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. His speech was read by the Palestinian U.N. observer, Riyad Mansour.
A fragile cease-fire went into effect early Sunday between the Palestinians and the Israelis, ending a five-month offensive in Gaza that has killed hundreds. Abbas said more than 510 Palestinians have been killed since June, bringing the total since September 2000 to more than 4,300 people, about a third of them children.
“We call upon Israel, which did not commit itself to the ceasefire, to end all its aggressive military actions in order to reach a comprehensive and mutual ceasefire,” he said. “This shall enable us to create the right atmosphere and provide the necessary groundwork for the resumption of negotiations and the attainment of a just solution.”
Abbas called the 1947 General Assembly resolution that partitioned Palestine “the beginning of our people’s ongoing tragedy.” But he said “the occupation of our land cannot continue forever, and the time has come to put an end to the bloodshed and to decades of hatred and hostilities.”
Israel’s deputy U.N. Ambassador Daniel Carmon stressed the importance of this week’s speech by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who proposed that Palestinians return to peace talks, saying his country would be willing to leave most of the West Bank in exchange. He urged that it be read “very carefully and in the right context.”
Asked about an international conference, Carmon said he was sure that in Abbas’ speech “there were some very interesting and positive elements, but history has shown us that the best way to negotiate and to solve our problems is through direct talks between the parties.”
Abbas, however, said finding a just solution based on previous agreements, the Quartet’s stalled road map to peace, and the goal of two states â€” Israel and Palestine â€” living side by side in peace, requires much broader international involvement.
“Now the time has come for the convening of an international conference to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict at all tracks, and for the members of the Quartet to play the role of an honest intermediary and guarantor of the agreements based on resolutions of international legitimacy (and) the principle of land for peace,” Abbas said.
The Quartet should also “establish the appropriate mechanisms to achieve this goal,” he said.
“On our part, and despite the oppression, killing, and destruction which we have been subjected to, our hands are still outstretched for peace which our Palestinian people have chosen with full awareness and conviction as a strategic choice,” Abbas said.
But he warned that Israeli measures to maintain control over large and important parts of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley” will undermine the two-state solution and force the Mideast “into further violence and chaos, the consequences of which will not be limited to the Middle East region.”
If Israel continues to reject an international conference and a role for the United Nations, Abbas said the Palestinians will seek a General Assembly resolution.
He called the 1947 General Assembly resolution that partitioned Palestine “the beginning of our people’s ongoing tragedy.” But he said “the occupation of our land cannot continue forever, and the time has come to put an end to the bloodshed and to decades of hatred and hostilities.”
Little can move forward, however, without a change in the Palestinian government, because Israel and the West are boycotting the current one headed by Hamas, an Islamic movement which refuses to recognize Israel and is listed by the West as a terror group.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in his speech to the assembly, said the Gaza ceasefire offered “a glimmer of hope that the latest round of hostilities might give way to a period of calm.”