We are going to the Security Council to seek full UN membership – says Abbas

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THE PLO will in September approach the UN Security Council to seek full membership in the global body, President Mahmud Abbas said on Wednesday.

‘We are going to the Security Council through a request to the secretary-general of the United Nations to seek full membership in the UN and recognition of Palestine on the 1967 borders,’ he said.

Abbas made the remarks in an address to the PLO Central Council, which is meeting in Ramallah to endorse the United Nations membership bid.

He told the council that 122 nations had already recognised a Palestinian state on the lines that existed before the 1967 Six-Day War, which would include the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.

Abbas insisted that seeking UN membership did not contradict a commitment to negotiations, adding that the international community, including the Middle East Quartet of peacemakers, had proved incapable of pressuring Israel to halt settlement construction and accept the 1967 lines as a basis for peace talks.

‘The choice of peace is our choice,’ he said. ‘Our first, second and third choice is peaceful negotiations.

‘But after the failure of the Quartet to lay out foundations for the negotiations, which are a halt to settlement building and using the 1967 borders as a basis for the Palestinian state, it is now too late for negotiations,’ he said.

‘It is too late, there is no time – we are going to the UN.’

The meeting of the PLO Central Council comes five days after Abbas convened a gathering of Palestinian diplomats in Istanbul to finalise the strategy for the membership bid.

The Central Council is the PLO’s most important decision-making body in the absence of the Palestinian National Council, the parliament-in-exile which rarely meets.

Palestinian officials say they are not planning on unilaterally proclaiming a state as they did in Algiers in 1988, nor will they seek recognition from the UN as a whole.

Instead, they will continue to work for endorsement on a state-by-state basis, while applying for membership in the global body.

Approaching the Security Council would be the only way for the Palestinians to gain full membership in the UN.

Officials in Ramallah have indicated that they might also consider seeking General Assembly backing for an upgrade from their current observer status to that of a non-member state.

Such an upgrade would allow the Palestinians to join all the UN agencies, such as the World Health Organisation, the child welfare agency UNICEF and the world heritage body, UNESCO.

It could also provide an alternative for the Palestinians if the United States vetoes its bid for membership in the Security Council, as Washington has already threatened to do.

• Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad said on Tuesday that the Palestinian Authority needed $300 million ‘urgently’ to help ease a financial crisis.

The PA ‘urgently needs $300 million to overcome the bottleneck and deal with the financial crisis,’ he told reporters in Cairo after an extraordinary meeting of Arab League representatives.

The crisis stems from the fact that pledged aid has not yet come through.

Fayyad said the PA had received $331 million in 2011, including $79 million from Arab countries, as well as an additional $30 million from Saudi Arabia.

Arab countries had agreed that aid to the PA should amount to $330 million every six months.

Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Malki told AFP that the meeting at the Arab League’s Cairo headquarters had been convened at the request of President Mahmud Abbas.

Abbas had called Arab League chief Nabil Al-Arabi on Monday night to request the meeting as the PA faces the possibility of being unable to pay the salaries of its employees, Al-Malki said.

‘The importance of the meeting is that it has become urgent that the Arab countries meet their financial obligations, particularly given the looming possibility that the Palestinian Authority will be unable to pay salaries for this current month and the next one, which is Ramadan,’ he said.

Abbas dispatched Fayyad to present the meeting with details of the funding crisis crippling the West Bank government, largely because pledged aid has not materialised, officials say.

Earlier this month, Fayyad said PA staff would receive only half-pay until the promised funds arrived.

‘The government has decided to pay employees half their salary due to the financial crisis that the Palestinian Authority is experiencing because of the failure of donors, including our Arab brothers, to fulfil their pledges,’ he said.

‘If this crisis continues, the government will have to take additional austerity measures,’ he said, warning that without receipt of the pledged aid, employees would continue to receive half-pay.

The donors’ failure to deliver pledged funding had left the PA with a monthly shortfall of $30 million, Fayyad said, adding that the aid received so far only covered around a third of government costs.

In late May, Fayyad said the PA was not receiving aid quickly enough to meet its spending needs and pointed the finger at Arab nations, without naming specific culprits.

The PA is largely reliant on foreign donors to make up its yearly budget. It also receives tax and tariff revenue that is collected by Israel and delivered periodically.

In May, Israel halted the payments temporarily in response to a unity deal between the Fatah party, which dominates the PA, and Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip.

This development provoked a furious response from Israel and its supporters and only some time afterwards did Israel agree to resume the fund transfers.

• Meanwhile, Israeli forces detained seven people taking part in a demonstration in Al-Walaja village on Wednesday morning.

Ala Ad-Deras, member of the Popular Committee Against the Wall, said that soldiers detained seven activists, including five internationals.

Agricultural land belonging to the village, situated in northwestern Bethlehem, was also destroyed, he said.

Israeli forces initiated aggressive behaviour against participants in the demonstration, leading to clashes between both sides, Ad-Deras said.

The two Palestinians detained were identified as Mazen Qumsiyeh, an activist in the popular committees, and Shireen Al-Araj, a member of the popular committee against the wall.

Israeli forces also reportedly bulldozed agricultural land belonging to the village on Tuesday, uprooting dozens of olive and pine trees.

Awad Abu Sway, a spokesman for the agriculture ministry, said bulldozers razed a road leading to a 5,000-year-old olive tree. The road’s construction was funded by foreign aid, he said.

The official said Israel’s actions in the village amounted to war crimes.

‘These procedures are considered a type of racial discrimination and a theft of Palestinian properties for the sake of the settlers, ignoring that it’s an illegal occupation state,’ Abu Sway said.

‘Therefore, it doesn’t have the right to own the natives’ properties.’

Residents of the southern West Bank village are overwhelmingly refugees, driven from the historic Al-Walaja, located just across the valley from the current population centre.

The village was, in 1948, the second largest land area after Jerusalem but was cut down to one third the size when Israel declared statehood that year.

Now a border village, Al-Walaja is edged on its eastern flank by an expanding bloc of settlements and is being reduced in size by the path of Israel’s separation wall which annexes between two and three kilometres of village lands from the pre-1967 border.