Abbas tells Europeans: Time to recognize Palestine
STRASBOURG, France (AP) — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has appealed to European countries to recognize a Palestinian state, saying "there is no more appropriate time" than now.
Abbas addressed the parliamentary assembly of the 47-member Council of Europe on Thursday after applying two weeks ago for United Nations recognition, despite a threatened United States veto in the Security Council.
President Barack Obama has told the U.N. General Assembly that a state can only be established through negotiations with Israel.
Seventeen members of the Council of Europe have recognized the state based on 1967 borders with Israel, Abbas said. The assembly is made up of national lawmakers in Europe — not to be confused with the European Union's Parliament — and focuses on human rights.
Abbas wants as many European countries as possible on board.
"There are European states that have said they will do so: they will recognize a Palestinian state at the appropriate time," he said. "I believe there is no time more appropriate than this moment."
The largely sympathetic assembly has urged its six members with Security Council seats — France, Russia, Britain, Germany, Portugal, and Bosnia and Herzegovina — to support the Palestinian bid at the U.N.
In the face of U.S. support for a return to negotiations, and a tricky political calculus in the U.N. Security Council, Abbas's appeal amounted to a pitch to hold — and strengthen — support among Europeans he sees as supportive.
But the reception that Abbas received summed up his challenge: while he drew solid, polite applause, it was far short of the multiple standing ovations for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to the U.S. Congress in May.
In that speech, Netanyahu said Israel was willing to make territorial compromises, but did little to entice the Palestinians back to the bargaining table. The Palestinians want a halt to Israeli settlement activity before returning to talks.
Answering questions from assembly delegates Thursday, Abbas insisted there was no "contradiction" between the Palestinian effort for recognition through the Security Council, and the long-stalled peace process.
Speaking to reporters after his speech, Abbas said he believes U.N. "technical procedures" will delay any action on his membership bid for at least a month.
The Security Council is the only body that can bestow full membership, and is reviewing the Palestinian application. The United States may not even be forced to use its veto — which could trigger embarrassment or worse for Washington in the Arab world — if Palestinians cannot muster the nine votes that it needs in the 15-member council.
While he didn't want to speak in "specific numbers," Abbas said that permanent members Russia and China are among the countries who have said they will support the bid.
"We're still conducting discussions with other countries, and we have a period of about under a month to win over the support of these countries," Abbas said in Arabic through a translator.
"We are making our efforts with all countries...(and) discussing with them quietly."