Palestinians Make Ready for Statehood Bid While Negotiations Continue In Hopes of Peace Deal

 Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said Thursday that the Palestinians will submit their UN bid on September 23 but are willing to listen to other ideas in the meantime.

Envoys from the United States, the European Union and the diplomatic Quartet have been holding 11th-hour talks with Palestinian and Israeli leaders in an effort to get them back into direct peace talks that stalled a year ago.

"We will see if any of them is carrying a credible offer that will allow us to look into it seriously," Malki told foreign journalists in Ramallah.

"Otherwise, on the 23rd at 12.30 (Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas) will submit the application."

Abbas is to make a broadcast address to the Palestinian people on Friday.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday and Thursday after holding talks with Abbas in Egypt.

Quartet envoy Tony Blair is in Jerusalem for meetings while US envoys Dennis Ross and David Hale were to meet Abbas in Ramallah Thursday evening.

"We'll submit our application for full membership," Malki said. "Until then we are open to any suggestions or ideas that could come from any side in order to renew negotiations on a firm basis with clear terms of reference, a clear timetable and clear guarantees."

An EU statement on Wednesday quoted Ashton as saying her mission was to ensure that the Palestinians' UN bid would ultimately lead to renewed negotiations with Israel.

"I hope that in the coming days what we'll be able to achieve together will be something that enables the negotiations to start," she said.

No details of her Thursday morning meeting with Netanyahu were immediately made public.

The US State Department has said that Washington would "leave no stone unturned" in efforts to deflect the Palestinians from the UN path and get them and the Israelis back into negotiations.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak met Ross on Wednesday and the two discussed the Palestinian issue and other regional matters, Barak's office said.

So far, 127 countries have recognised a Palestinian state based on the lines that existed before the 1967 Six Day War, including Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Some hardline Israeli ministers are calling for Israel to annex chunks of the West Bank if the Palestinians go ahead with their play for UN membership.

Hardline Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned Wednesday there would be "harsh and grave consequences" if the Palestinians persist with their plan. He did not elaborate on the possible consequences.

In the past he has called for Israel to sever all relations with Abbas's administration should it press on with its UN bid.

"What I can say with the greatest confidence is that from the moment they pass a unilateral decision there will be harsh and grave consequences," Lieberman told an agricultural conference in southern Israel.

Agence France-Presse / By

Posted at September 15, 2011, 3:31am

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