No peace in Middle East without Palestinian rights, says Abbas

Comments come day after Israeli PM discussed normalisation of Saudi relations with US President

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly. Reuters
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Mahmoud Abbas, President of Palestine, called on the UN on Thursday to convene a peace conference to salvage the two-state solution and prevent the situation with Israel from further deteriorating.

Addressing the UN General Assembly, Mr Abbas said there could be no peace in the Middle East without addressing his people's rights.

“Those who think that peace can prevail in the Middle East without the Palestinian people enjoying their full, legitimate national rights would be mistaken,” he said.

“I ask … the Secretary General … to convene this peace conference, which may be the last opportunity to salvage the two-state solution and to prevent the situation from deteriorating more seriously, threatening the security and stability of our region and the entire world."

The address by Mr Abbas, 87, came a day after Mr Netanyahu discussed normalisation of relations with Saudi Arabia in a meeting with US President Joe Biden in New York City.

The same day, Fox News aired an interview with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in which he said establishing formal ties with Israel was getting “closer” by the day.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia, the Arab League and the EU co-hosted a closed meeting on the sidelines of the 78th UN General Assembly, aimed at reviving the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, which has been at a standstill for the past decade.

“The result of the meeting is a stronger commitment by many people to engage more on this two-state solution, which is the only viable solution,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters.

Mr Abbas also called on UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to implement resolutions to provide protection for the Palestinian people from the “constant aggressions of the occupation army".

The Palestinian people, he said, cannot leave their land and if anyone must leave it must be the occupiers.

With the expansion of Israeli settlements under the administration of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right government, Palestinians say the violence from extremist Israeli settlers has reached an alarming level.

For nearly six decades, the expansion of settlements has remained a consistent policy in successive Israeli administrations.

But under Mr Netanyahu's government, the agenda has had a notable increase.

Israel’s Finance Minister, Bezalel Smotrich, known for his strong support among settlers, is responsible for overseeing settlement policy.

Mr Smotrich has made clear his commitment to speed up building and legitimising the status of outposts that were originally built without proper authorisation.

US President Joe Biden, who met Mr Netanyahu on Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, raised concerns about the Israeli government’s treatment of the Palestinians.

Mr Biden called on the Israeli leader to initiate measures aimed at improving conditions in the West Bank.

This month marks three decades since Israel and the Palestinians signed the Oslo Accords, which established limited self-government under the Palestinian Authority but ultimately fell short of achieving a lasting solution.

Mr Netanyahu who addresses the General Assembly on Friday has said that the Middle East's priorities have moved on and hopes normalisation with Arab states might effectively circumvent the need for a formal process with the Palestinians.

Updated: September 22, 2023, 5:40 AM