Ahead of UN speech, Palestinian leader eschews direct talks

AP , Wednesday 30 Sep 2015

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas makes comments to journalists on the ongoing unrest at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, in the West Bank city of Ramallah Sept. 16, 2015 (Photo: AP)

In a harshly worded essay ahead of his Wednesday address to the United Nations, the Palestinian president says a new "multilateral" approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is needed since direct negotiations with Israel have repeatedly failed.

Mahmoud Abbas says the model should be based instead on the type of negotiations that took place in the Balkans, Libya and Iran. Several rounds of past negotiations have been unable to reach a peace accord and Abbas shunned renewing them.

"The peace process must be multilateral. The same pattern of negotiations imposed for years will not work because Israel is the occupying power," he wrote in an op-ed in The Huffington Post. "We cannot directly negotiate with a power that has this level of control and exhibits such contempt for the rights and existence of our people."

While Abbas' Palestinian Authority rules over most of the West Bank Palestinian population, Israel still controls much of the territory. Israel accuses Abbas and his predecessor Yasser Arafat of rejecting far-reaching Israeli peace proposals and inciting further violence.

In his op-ed, Abbas claimed it was Israel that has negotiated in bad faith and accused it of "blatant ethnic cleansing."

There was no immediate comment from Israel.

The column could give a hint about what Abbas plans to say before the U.N.'s General Assembly. He has threatened to drop a "bombshell" in the speech later Wednesday — prompting speculation he will sever ties with Israel over its settlement expansion and other hard-line policies.

But the tough talk could also be an attempt to mask his weakness. Hopes of setting up a Palestinian state have been derailed, and there are calls for the 80-year-old Abbas to resign and dissolve the Palestinian Authority.

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