Obama tries to derail Palestinian UN bid No Spring

UNITED NATIONS, Sept 21, (Agencies): US President Barack Obama, trying to avert a showdown on Palestinian statehood, told the United Nations on Wednesday there was no substitute for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations or a short cut to peace.
With US credibility and influence in the Middle East at stake, Obama wants to dissuade the Palestinians from asking the UN Security Council for statehood in defiance of Israeli objections and a US veto threat. But they have shown no sign of renouncing their plan to stake their claim on Friday.
Flag-waving Palestinians filled the squares of West Bank cities to rally behind the statehood initiative.
A year after telling the UN General Assembly he hoped to see a Palestinian state born by now, the US president said creating such a state alongside Israel remained his goal.
“But the question isn’t the goal we seek — the question is how to reach it. And I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades,” Obama said.
“Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN — if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now,” he said.
“Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians — not us — who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and security; on refugees and Jerusalem,” he added.

Failure
However, it is the failure of 20 years of US-brokered negotiations that has driven Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to take his quest for statehood to the United Nations — a move that threatens to embarrass the United States by forcing it to protect its Israeli ally against the tide of world opinion.
And although Obama said he had set out a new basis for negotiations in May, chances of reviving peace talks look bleak.
The two sides are far apart. The Palestinians are divided internally and Obama will not want to risk alienating Israel’s powerful US support base by pressing for Israeli concessions as he enters a tough re-election battle next year.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior Palestinian official, said Obama’s remarks showed an inconsistent approach in praising Arab struggles for freedom, while making an “abstract call” for negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
“We expected to hear that the freedom of the Palestinian people was the key for the Arab spring,” he said.
The Palestinians see statehood as opening the way for negotiations between equals. Israel says the Palestinian move aims at de-legitimizing the Jewish state.
The drama at the United Nations is playing out as US, Israeli and Palestinian leaders all struggle with the fallout from Arab uprisings roiling the Middle East.
Obama pledged support for Arab democratic change, called for more UN sanctions against Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and urged Iran and North Korea to meet their nuclear obligations — twin standoffs that have eluded his efforts at resolution.
“There is a future of greater opportunity for the people of these nations if their governments meet their obligations. But if they continue down a path that is outside international law, they must be met with greater pressure and isolation,” he said.

Iran freed two Americans held for spying, a day before President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad addresses the United Nations. The Iranian leader has described it as a compassionate release.
Obama later met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and assured him that efforts to impose peace on Israel and the Palestinians would not work. Netanyahu said the Palestinian bid for UN recognition of statehood “will not succeed.”
Obama was also due to meet Abbas and appeal to him not to present UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon with a membership application on Friday, setting the stage for an eventual Security Council vote that Washington says it will block.
In one of several frantic efforts to avert a diplomatic. disaster, French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged the United Nations to grant the Palestinians the status of observer state, like the Vatican, while outlining a one-year roadmap to peace.
“Today we are facing a very difficult choice,” he said. “Each of us knows that Palestine cannot immediately obtain full and complete recognition of the status of United Nations member state. But who could doubt that a veto at the Security Council risks engendering a cycle of violence in the Middle East?”

Compromise
The United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations — the “Quartet” of Middle East mediators — are seeking a compromise, with no signs yet of success.
The Security Council could also delay action on Abbas’ request for weeks, giving the Quartet more time to come up with a statement that could coax both sides back to the table.
Whatever happens at the United Nations, Palestinians will remain under Israeli occupation and any nominal state would lack recognized borders or real independence and sovereignty.
It is a measure of their desperation that they seem determined to press on with an initiative that could incur financial retribution from Israel and the United States.
Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz threatened on Tuesday to stop transferring tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority if Abbas persists with his UN move.

The money, collected by Israel on behalf of the PA, amounts to about $135 million a month, or 40 percent of the PA budget.
The United States gives the Palestinian Authority financial support worth $500 million a year. Some US politicians have said they will try to cut American aid to the Palestinians if they do not give way.
Palestinian Monetary Authority Governor Jihad al-Wazir told Reuters on Monday that an aid cutoff by the United States and other donors would risk precipitating the collapse of the PA.
In his speech to the annual UN General Assembly, Ban asked governments to show solidarity in meeting “extraordinary challenges” for the world body, ranging from development and climate change to peacekeeping and humanitarian relief.
“Without resources, we cannot deliver. Today, I ask governments that have traditionally borne the lion’s share of the costs to not flag in their generosity,” he declared, pledging to streamline UN budgets to “do more with less.”

Honor
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described Wednesday US President Obama’s opposition to a Palestinian push for statehood recognition at the UN as “a badge of honor.”
“I want to thank you, Mr President, for standing with Israel and supporting peace,” Netanyahu said as the two men met before a backdrop of US and Israeli flags on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday.
Referring to Obama’s vow to veto a Palestinian recognition appeal, possibly in the UN Security Council, Netanyahu said: “I think this is a badge of honor and I want to thank you for wearing that badge of honor.”
“We both agree that Palestinians and Israelis should sit down together and negotiate an agreement of mutual recognition and security,” Netanyahu said.
“This is the only way to get to a stable and durable peace.”

“I think the Palestinians want to achieve a state through the international community, but they are not prepared yet to give peace to Israel in return.”
Meanwhile, Obama on Wednesday called for UN Security Council sanctions on Syria, saying there was no excuse for inaction when people were being tortured and murdered by their government.
“For the sake of Syria — and the peace and security of the world — we must speak with one voice. Now is the time for the United Nations Security Council to sanction the Syrian regime, and to stand with the Syrian people,” Obama told the United Nations General Assembly.
Obama was criticized heavily by political opponents within the United States for responding too slowly to the crackdown on demonstrators by Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
But he has now imposed sanctions on the Syrian leader, his family and his regime and last month called on him to leave power.

“As we meet here today, men, women and children are being tortured, detained and murdered by the Syrian regime,” Obama said.
“Thousands have been killed, many during the holy time of Ramadan. Thousands more have poured across Syria’s borders.
“The question for us is clear: Will we stand with the Syrian people, or with their oppressors?
“Already the United States has imposed strong sanctions on Syria’s leaders. We have supported a transfer of power that is responsive to the Syrian people. Many of our allies have joined us in this effort,” Obama said.
America’s western allies have joined Washington in imposing sanctions against Syria, but Russia and China have opposed attempts to frame a sanctions regime in the Security Council and threatened to veto any such resolution.

Isolation
Obama also on Wednesday warned that Iran and North Korea would face even deeper isolation if they failed to bring their nuclear programs under international law.
“There is a future of greater opportunity for the people of these nations if their governments meet their obligations. But if they continue down a path that is outside international law, they must be met with greater pressure and isolation,” Obama said. “That is what our commitment to peace demands.”
Obama has argued that his administration had worked to strengthen treaties and institutions dedicated to the spread of nuclear weapons and needed to hold those nations who flout such regimes accountable.
“The Iranian government cannot demonstrate that its program is peaceful, has not met its obligations, and rejected offers that would provide it with peaceful nuclear power,” Obama told the UN General Assembly.

“North Korea has yet to take concrete steps toward abandoning its weapons, and continues belligerent actions against the South.”
The president’s comments came as the chief nuclear envoys for North and South Korea met in Beijing but failed to reach agreement on reviving nuclear disarmament talks.
North Korea formally abandoned the six-nation forum, a process which began back in 2003 and groups the two Koreas, China, the United States, Japan and Russia, in April 2009.
At the International Atomic Energy Agency general conference in Vienna this week, the United States warned Tehran was creeping “still closer” to producing nuclear weapons-grade uranium.
The UN Security Council has imposed four rounds of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear activities, which the Islamic republic says are peaceful but which Western powers suspect are aimed at developing atomic weapons.

Obama said on Wednesday that Japan and the United States need to continue to promote economic growth.
Obama made the comments at the beginning of a meeting with Japan’s new prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting.
“As the two largest economies in the world we have to continue to promote growth that can help put our people to work and improve standards of living,” Obama said.
Noda, who took over this month as Japan’s sixth premier in five years and is making his diplomatic debut at the United Nations this week, also said the two nations must work on lifting economic growth.
“One worry I have is there is an emerging concern that a once-recovering economy might fall back into recession,” he said, speaking through a translator. It was not clear whether Noda was referring to the United States, Japan or the global economy.

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