Abbas repeats offer of talks with Israel after U.N. upgrade

CAIRO Tue Nov 13, 2012 2:50am IST

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a ceremony marking the eighth anniversary of the death of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the West Bank city of Ramallah November 11, 2012. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a ceremony marking the eighth anniversary of the death of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the West Bank city of Ramallah November 11, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Mohamad Torokman

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas repeated an offer on Monday to restart peace talks with Israel after a U.N. vote to recognise Palestine as an observer state later this month.

"We had agreed to go get the vote on November 29 ... the majority needed for the vote will be on our side," Abbas told reporters of the planned U.N. vote. He was speaking in Cairo at a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers.

"If it is possible to start talks on the following day (after acquiring the observer status) then we are ready for that," Abbas added.

The Western-backed Palestinian Authority circulated a draft resolution to U.N. member states on Wednesday calling for upgrading its U.N. status to that of observer state, despite objections by the United States and Israel.

Washington says it favours eventual statehood for Palestine, but wants it to come as a result of negotiations with Israel. The United States can block full recognition of Palestine as a U.N. member at the Security Council, where it has a veto, but the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly can still grant observer status.

Abbas's proposal, to be put to a vote in the General Assembly later this month, would implicitly recognise Palestinian statehood and could also grant access to bodies such as the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

"We do not want to clash with anyone, neither with America nor with Israel nor with anyone else," Abbas said. He asked the Arab League states for their "blessings".

The upgrade seems certain to win approval in any vote in the 193-nation General Assembly, which is composed mostly of post-colonial states historically sympathetic to the Palestinians.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been stalled over Israel's refusal to first halt settlement building in territory where the Palestinians want their state.

(Reporting by Yasmine Saleh and Ayman Samir. Writing by Marwa Awad; Editing by Peter Graff)

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