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      Abbas Lays Groundwork for Unilateral Declaration of PA State

      PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has told his aides to ask the United Nations to recognize the entity as a new Arab country called Palestine.
      By Chana Ya'ar
      First Publish: 12/9/2010, 4:41 PM / Last Update: 12/9/2010, 8:24 PM

      PMW screenshot and Israel news photo

      Arab media is reporting that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas told his aides to ask the United Nations Security Council to recognize the PA as a new Arab country to be called “Palestine.” According to a report published Thursday in the London-based Arabic-language daily A-Sharq al-Awsat, the PA is prepared to ask the U.N. to recognize it as an independent state. 

      Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit allegedly asked PA officials to wait for the Obama administration to make another attempt at negotiating a two-state solution with Israel, according to the report. Gheit also allegedly warned that the U.S. must apply further pressure on Israel.

      The report follows an announcement earlier in the week by a senior U.S. official who told reporters that Washington was abandoning the issue of a pressuring Israel to impose another freeze on Jewish construction in areas demanded by the PA for its hoped-for country, and that a new approach would be considered instead. What that might be, was not spelled out in the conference call with the unnamed official.

      Abbas met in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Thursday, meanwhile, and held firm on his refusal to engage in direct final status talks with Israel without a complete freeze on Jewish construction in Judea, Samaria and much of Jerusalem. “Our stance is clear and we have announced it to the Americans,” Abbas told reporters. “We will not agree to negotiate as long as settlement building continues.”

      Abbas, who met Wednesday with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, said there was no flexibility on the issue of forming a PA state along the 1949 armistice line, referred to by some as the “1967 borders.” He also said that any exchange of land would require similar quantity and quality.

      The Fatah Revolutionary Council led by Abbas, and which leads the PA, last month issued a proclamation rejecting all proposals for peace, including land swaps, and refusing to recognize Israel as a Jewish State.

      U.S. Special Middle East envoy George Mitchell is expected to arrive in the region before the weekend, while former chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat is scheduled to fly to Washington to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but their specific plans are unclear.

      Playing the Diplomatic Angle
      Abbas has spent the past year flying around the world on a diplomatic mission to build support for a unilateral declaration of statehood.

      The efforts have paid off in South America, possibly with the assistance of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who likewise tightened ties there this year. As a result, several nations have announced their willingness to recognize the PA as a country.

      Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman announced Monday that President Cristina Fernandez had written to Abbas, informing him of her government’s decision to recognize the PA as “Palestine,” calling it a “free and independent state” within the pre-1967 borders.

      Uruguay also announced Monday that it would move to recognize the PA as a new country, although the official announcement would come next year. Deputy Foreign Minister Roberto Conde told the AFP news service, “We are working towards opening a diplomatic representation in Palestine, most likely in Ramallah.” 

      Last week Brazil was the first to announce its formal recognition of the PA as a new country. 

      PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki has told AFP that he expects Bolivia and Ecuador to follow with similar announcements shortly.

      No Interest in Negotiations
      Abbas has repeatedly turned away attempts by the U.S. and Israel to woo him back to the negotiating table after rejecting a final proposal for a two-state solution offered former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert just before he left office two years ago.

      A year ago, he said he would participate in direct talks, with the condition that Israel would freeze Jewish construction in areas demanded by the PA for its hoped-for state.

      Nine months after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu risked his coalition by forcing through an unpopular freeze on Jewish building in Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria, Abbas participated in a much-ballyhooed summit at the White House on September 2. But after two more meetings, he abandoned the talks as soon as the freeze ended as scheduled on September 26.