Istanbul: Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas said Saturday the Palestinians' bid to win UN backing for statehood was forced upon them by Israel's refusal to halt settlement building and end its occupation.
"We are going to the United Nations because we are forced to, it is not a unilateral action," he said in a speech in Arabic in Istanbul, where he is meeting Palestinian diplomats from around the world.
"What is unilateral is Israeli settlement," Abbas said as he convened the envoys to finalise Palestinian strategy to bolster support for statehood at the UN General Assembly in September.
"We have not been able to return to negotiations with (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu because of his refusal to negotiate on the basis of the 1967 borders and to stop settlement," he said at the meeting attended by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"Our first, second and third choice is to return to negotiations," Abbas said.
"To get significant results we have to speak with one voice," he told the audience of Palestinian diplomats, adding the decision to seek UN endorsement would have the backing of a large consensus, both of his West Bank-based Fatah movement and of the radical Islamist Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.
"God willing, Palestinian reconciliation will be achieved before we go to the UN," Abbas said, referring to a formal end to years of enmity between the two agreed on April 27, but yet to be implemented politically.
First Published: Saturday, July 23, 2011, 17:44