Palestinian UN envoy: ‘Our hands are reaching out for peace’

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AMMAN: The permanent Palestinian representative to the UN has offered an olive branch as the Security Council prepares for an important session on the Middle East.

Riyad Mansour, Palestine’s ambassador to the UN, told Arab News that the upcoming Security Council session will focus on Palestinians’ genuine search for a peaceful resolution to the decades-long Israeli occupation.

“We stretch our arms out for peace and we will make sure that the international body takes on its responsibility for world peace,” he said.

President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to address the UN Security Council on Feb. 20 in a session that will be dedicated to the Palestine-Israel conflict.

“Resolution 1515 which endorsed the 2003 Road Map calls on the Security Council to meet once every three months to review progress on peace in the Middle East,” Mansour said.

The Palestinian UN diplomat dismissed remarks by Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon, who called Abbas anti-Semitic, as irrelevant. “The Israeli representative has nothing to do with this meeting, which was called for by the Kuwaiti representative,” he explained.

Kuwait, which holds the rotating chair of the Security Council, asked all 15 Security Council members, “including the Americans,” to attend and they all welcomed Abbas’ visit, according to Mansour.

Kuwait’s Ambassador Mansour Al-Otaibi told reporters that it was “important” for the top UN body to “listen to the (Palestinian) president himself” during the Middle East debate.

Mansour said that he is trying to persuade UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to attend the meeting and he hopes that the secretary-general will also meet Abbas one-to-one.

Since Abbas’ speech at the Palestine Central Council in Ramallah in January, Israeli officials have continually criticized the Palestinian president. Danon made his “anti-Semitic” claim in a statement in which he said that Abbas’ address to the council would further damage prospects for direct peace talks with Israel.

“After disseminating anti-Semitic messages in recent speeches, Abbas is now seeking to put an end to any possibility of negotiations with Israel,” said Danon.

“By continuing to act against the United States and seeking unilateral action against Israel, Abbas is completely misreading today’s reality and harming the prospects for a better future for his people,” he continued.

The US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has also added her voice to the criticism of Abbas. On Jan. 25 she issued a scathing attack, claiming that he lacks the “courage and the will to seek peace” in the Middle East.

“We will not chase after a Palestinian leadership that lacks what is needed to achieve peace,” Haley said in a fiery speech at a UN Security Council meeting.

Abbas had mentioned Haley by name in his Jan. 14 speech in Ramallah, scoffing at her statement that she wears high-heeled shoes not as a fashion statement but to use against anyone attacking Israel.

The Security Council is scheduled to hold an informal meeting on the Middle East on Feb. 22, where former US President Jimmy Carter has been invited by the Kuwaiti ambassador to participate in the discussions.

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