SARAJEVO President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday the Palestinians will apply for full U.N. membership at September's meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, confirming the timing of a step opposed by the United States and Israel.
"The application will be submitted to the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon," he told a news conference in Sarajevo, ending a three-day visit to Bosnia during which he asked for support for the U.N. bid. "There is no date. Any time during the U.N. session we can submit the application."
With paralysis in the U.S.-backed peace process, Abbas's plan is to apply for full U.N. membership for a state of Palestine in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.
Palestinian officials have presented the plan as a move towards leveling the playing field with Israel in future negotiations. The Palestinians began talks with Israel two decades ago with the aim of establishing an independent state.
Israel has condemned the U.N. bid as an attempt to isolate it and undermine the legitimacy of its own statehood.
The United States, Israel's main ally, also opposes the initiative, seeing it as unhelpful to efforts to bring about a negotiated end to the conflict. Washington is expected to use its U.N. Security Council veto to block the application.
Anticipating that outcome, Palestinian officials have said they will also apply for an upgrade in their U.N. status to that of a non-member state. Such an upgrade would not require Security Council approval and could be achieved by tabling a resolution in the General Assembly, Palestinian officials say.
Asked about that idea, Abbas said: "After the discussion at the Security Council, we will see. Anyhow, we are going there with an Arab follow-up committee, and we will make consultations with them to decide what we want."
"We don't want to boycott Americans. At the same time, they will not boycott us," he said. "We will continue to cooperate with the Americans and the European countries. They help us, work with us."
This year's 66th General Assembly meetings are set to open officially on Sept. 13 with high-level meetings of world leaders expected to start on Sept. 20.
(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Tom Perry and Alastair Macdonald)