RAMALLAH, Palestine: Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas signed a request to join several UN agencies on Tuesday, in a move that could derail a US push to revive faltering peace talks with Israel.
“The Palestinian leadership has unanimously approved a decision to seek membership of 15 UN agencies and international treaties, beginning with the Fourth Geneva Convention,” Abbas said on television after signing the demand during a meeting at his Ramallah headquarters.
“The demands (for membership) will be sent immediately” to the relevant agencies, he said.
“This is not a move against America, or any other party — it is our right, and we agreed to suspend it for nine months,” said Abbas.
The Palestinians agreed to refrain from seeking membership of international bodies and from pursuing legal action against Israel during the nine months of talks that US Secretary of State John Kerry launched in July.
In return, Israel agreed to release 104 long-serving Palestinian prisoners.
But Israel has refused to release the final batch of 26 prisoners, using it as a bargaining chip to try and extend talks beyond their April 29 deadline.
The Palestinians have also repeatedly threatened to resume their action through international courts and the UN over Israel’s settlement expansion on occupied territory in the West Bank and in annexed Arab east Jerusalem.
Israel on Tuesday reissued tenders for hundreds of settler homes in the east Jerusalem settlement neighborhood of Gilo, on top of the thousands of new homes it has announced since July.
Prior to Abbas’ announcement, Kerry had been due back in the region for a meeting with the Palestinian president on Wednesday, after a whirlwind visit on Monday and Tuesday.