U.S. President Barack Obama told Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday that his administration opposes his bid for non-state membership of the UN, both sides said, according to an AFP report.
"There was a long telephone conversation between president Mahmoud Abbas and Barack Obama," Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP.
"Obama expressed the opposition of the United States to the decision to go to the UN General Assembly," he added
Abbas explained "the reasons and motives for the Palestinian decision to go to the UN ... including the continued (Jewish) settlement activity and Israeli aggression against citizens and property," Abu Rudeina said.
In a subsequent statement quoted by AFP, the White House said Obama had "reiterated the United States' opposition to unilateral efforts at the United Nations" in the call to Abbas.
Obama "reaffirmed his commitment to Middle East peace and his strong support for direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians with the objective of two states living side by side in peace and security," it said.
Obama said he hoped he and Abbas would "continue cooperating closely in the future," added the statement, noting that Obama was returning a congratulatory call made by Abbas after his re-election last week.
Earlier on Sunday, Abbas used the anniversary of Yasser Arafat’s death to adamantly state he will submit a bid to the United Nations General Assembly this month for non-member status.
"We're going to the United Nations in November 2012, not 2013, or 2014," Abbas said at a Ramallah event commemorating the eighth anniversary of the death of Arafat. The bid is a scaled-down version of his ploy last year, when he dropped his bid for full membership in the UN after it became clear that he was one vote short of the needed two-thirds support in the Security Council.
On paper, Abbas has an overwhelming majority to win the vote in the General Assembly, where the U.S. does not have veto power as it does in the Security Council.
Last Thursday, envoys from the Palestinian Authority unveiled the resolution they hope will give them observer membership at the United Nations.
Arab League foreign ministers are to discuss the resolution sometime this week. The PA’s mission to the United Nations sent a letter to UN members with its proposed resolution, saying it would be put to the 193 member UN General Assembly "at a date to be announced in the near future."
The Obama administration indicated already two months ago that it opposes the PA’s unilateral move and said it would “make the case” at the UN for Israeli-PA talks when Abbas submits his bid.
Channel 10 News reported last week that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has threatened that if the PA goes ahead with its unilateral statehood bid he “will work to ensure the PA will collapse.”
Lieberman reportedly stressed that a unilateral statehood bid by the PA will "put an end to the chances to resume peace negotiations."
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz also threatened the PA on Saturday, saying that Israel would once again halt the transfer of the taxes it collects for the Palestinian Authority if it pursues its statehood bid.