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EXCLUSIVE - Abbas to EU: lead Mideast peace

EXCLUSIVE - Abbas to EU: lead Mideast peace
By Euronews
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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has made clear that he intends to take the question of statehood to the United Nations this September, unless there is progress on the issue before then. Abbas spoke with euronews in Tunis, before arriving in Europe.

Mohammed Shaikhibrahim, euronews: “President Abbas, the US has failed to bring about an end to Israel’s settlement-building policy in the West Bank. The Americans have brandished their veto when questions over censure of Israel came up in the UN Security Council. Do you still count on the US to advance the peace process?”

Abbas: “Apart from the use of the right to veto, we know there is enormous bias, especially the last time that the veto was used. We are asking for a freeze on settlement building, and this is mainly how the United States has put it. But we look at the world, the Quartet, with Russia, the European Union, the US and the United Nations. We are tied to these players, and we can not say we do not want this one or that one. In the end, ensuring the respect of international legitimacy will be up to them.

“After the United States’ use of the veto in the Security Council, a declaration was published by Britain and France, supported by Germany, Italy and Spain. We accept the content of that declaration from A to Z, since it includes the total freezing of settlement building, and is backed by international references.”

euronews: “What are the Palestinian authorities asking from the European Union?”

Abbas: “The European Union gives us financial help, either collectively or individual member states which have relations with us. We appreciate this generosity enormously. But we have always asked for a European Union political position. It is not enough that the EU only play the banker. We ask it to have a political position. It has recently begun to appear, more than once, in its statements. We are asking the EU to maintain its position. We are not asking it to replace the US. That would be going too far on our part. But we ask the European Union to support the peace process and to take up the leadership of the Quartet in its efforts to achieve peace.”

euronews: “Israel demanded that you recognise the Jewish nature of the state. What does this demand mean for you? Why did you refuse?”

Abbas: “Our position till now has been to refuse that totally, categorically. And yet we recognise the state of Israel. We are not obliged to accept every idea that occurs to them. They may have come out with this demand to put brakes on the negotiations. We told them we will never accept it.”

euronews: “Do you plan to declare the State of Palestine unilaterally, in spite of the Israeli threats?”

Abbas: “To start with, we are not proclaiming this state unilaterally. We are simply saying we are going to the United Nations. Why have we gone to the UN recently? Is it not over settlement building? Because we found every door being closed to us. Where do we have to go? Which world institution is qualified to receive the grievances presented by an oppressed people? Is it not the United Nations?

Going to the UN is not making a unilateral decision. No. I go to the United Nations simply to stand up for my rights.

“What was the basis for the founding of Israel? It was founded on the General Assembly’s resolution 181. Why does no one say now that that was a unilateral decision?

“The policy of building settlements, and the disfigurement of the country are unilateral procedures. That’s what should be called to call unilateral.

“We want to go to the UN in September. I am not saying there is a clear-cut promise, but President Obama’s words have been clear: ‘I want to see a fully-fledged State next September.’ September lies ahead of us.

“And here is another thing: the Quartet confirmed that negotiations would start in September and finish in September. And last September we went to the US to start the negotiations, but Netanyahu refused to begin, because he had refused to extend the freeze on settlement building.

If the negotiations were supposed to unfold between last September and next September, and if by next September no serious negotiations have taken place on primordial questions such as borders, security, Jerusalem, water, refugees and other equally important matters, then we will bring our case to the United Nations. We will ask it: what do you think about this? What is your position? What are we going to do? And this is our right, and is not a unilateral decision.”

euronews: “What conditions do the Palestinians want in place to restart the negotiations?”

Abbas: “Two things – first, the acceptance of the international resolutions which stipulate that the borders of the occupied territories are those of 1967, taking into consideration all proposals for exchange of territories equal in surface area and value. And then the question of security. The new state must be free of any Israeli presence, although I would not object to a third-party, international security force. Last but not least, there must be a total settlement freeze.”

euronews: “About Palestinian internal affairs now -what is stopping you from patching things up with Hamas?”

Abbas: “The main stumbling block, and I’m not accusing anyone… for my part, I have said and I presented an initiative on 16 March. I said I am ready to go to Gaza to put together a government of technocrats and independents.

“This government must do two things. The first is to rebuild Gaza, and the second is to set a date for elections. Absolutely everyone accepted, but Hamas has not given it a positive follow-up until now.

“On the other hand, we have heard negative responses but are not paying attention to them. We are waiting for a positive response so we can move forward on solving our problems and put an end to this state of dissension. Who is responsible for it? Maybe you can tell me.

euronews: “Do you think it is because other countries in the region are interfering?”

Abbas: “Think of any reason and you will find it correct.”

euronews: “How about Iran?”

Abbas: “We do not want to go into that sort of thing. I have said it several times. I have given my word not to get into an argument with Hamas. We have a deal not to go at each other in the media.”

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