11/16/2009, 00.00
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Palestinians to ask for UN recognition of their state

Chief Palestinian negotiator Erekat makes the announcement. Palestinian state is to include West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem within 1967 borders. Israeli government reacts negatively.
Ramallah (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Palestinians plan to ask for UN recognition of their state, including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as their capital. The decision was made public today in Ramallah by chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. Israel reacted immediately and negatively to the announcement, saying that Palestinian statehood should be part of bilateral negotiations. However, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak warned not to underestimate the action taken by the government of Mahmoud Abbas.

“We have reached a decision . . . to go to the UN Security Council to ask for recognition of an independent Palestinian state,” chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said. “We're going to seek support from EU countries and Russia and other countries” for the measure.

Calls for a unilateral action by the Palestinians for recognition of their state had been made for years as a way to force Israel to break the gridlock that has prevented talks from going ahead. Others had called for unilaterally declaring independence, asking the UN to determine final borders of their promised state, dissolving the Palestinian Authority (PA) and seeking equal rights within Israel

The latest steps, which include a return to the 1967 borders in Jerusalem and the Wailing Wall, is closely related to the frustrations caused by the lack of tangible progress in the initiative taken by the Obama administration for the stabilisation of the Middle East.

However, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was less doctrinaire about UN recognition. He said he was bent on building institutions for a de-facto Palestinian state, which he has previously said he was aiming to complete by 2011. “What we're concerned with, the PA and my government, is to get ready for statehood, to prepare institutions of the state,” he said in Ramallah. “That's not the same as declaring statehood.”

“That's the goal and when we approach it this way, we stand a very good chance of getting the support, sympathy and encouragement of the international community,” he added.

In Israel, first reactions were negative. “Unilateral steps will not lead to the results we are hoping to achieve,” Vice Premier Silvan Shalom said. “The only result should be direct negotiations.”

Hard-line Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau said that if the Palestinians took unilateral steps, Israel should annex the parts of the West Bank that contain major Jewish settlement blocs.

The information and Diaspora minister, Yuli Edelstein, said Erekat's comments “prove that among the Palestinian leaders, there are many who still believe that they can achieve their goals through violence and terrorism.”

Defence Minister Ehud Barak, meanwhile, warned that without a peace deal, Israel will face a rise in international support for either unilateral Palestinian statehood or a bi-national state.

“Neither of these threats will happen tomorrow, but we shouldn't disregard their importance,” he said.

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