AMMAN (Reuters) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday he expected the Security Council to finish debating his nation’s application for full United Nations membership within weeks, not months.
Speaking to journalists on his plane back from the General Assembly in New York where he presented the request, Abbas said Security Council members had initially appeared unenthusiastic about the idea of discussing the application.
But he said the mood appeared to change after he delivered a speech to the General Assembly on Friday, during which he pressed the Palestinian case for an independent state alongside Israel.
The United States, Israel’s closest ally, has said it will block the move. Both governments say direct peace talks are the correct way for Palestinians to pursue peace. Washington holds veto power in the 15-member Security Council.
“We are talking about weeks not months,” Abbas said.
Earlier in Ramallah, a leading official in Abbas’s Fatah faction said the Palestinians wanted a decision on the bid within a fortnight.
Lebanon’s U.N. ambassador said the Security Council would convene on Monday to discuss the application after Abbas presented it to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday.
Abbas’s statehood bid reflects his loss of faith after 20 years of failed peace talks sponsored by the United States, and alarm at Israeli settlement expansion in occupied land that Palestinians want for a state.
Talking about a return to peace talks with Israel, Abbas said: “We will not deal with any initiative which does not contain a halt to settlement or the ’67 borders.”
But apart from the U.S. veto threat, it was also unclear if the required nine of the body’s 15 members would support the bid.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki told national radio officials were still hoping to garner the required votes.
“Consultations continue, especially with Gabon, Nigeria and Bosnia-Herzegovina, which have yet to define their position,” Maliki was quoted as saying.
Abbas told the reporters accompanying him of a tense atmosphere during the week: “We held dozens of meetings with dozens of delegations which were trying to avert our going to the Security Council,” Abbas said.
Alternate to the Security Council, the Palestinians, who currently have observer status at the U.N., could ask for the General Assembly to vote to upgrade them to a non-member state which would afford them membership of various U.N. agencies.
The General Assembly vote requires only a simple majority, seemingly an easy proposition for the Palestinians.
In his speech to the General Assembly on Friday after presenting the request, Abbas said: “I do not believe that anyone with a shred of conscience can reject our application … and our admission as an independent state.”
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who spoke shortly after Abbas, said peace could be achieved only through negotiations and dismissed the world body as a “theatre of the absurd.”
After the two men ended their speeches, the quartet of Middle East peace negotiators — the United States, Russia, the European Union and the U.N. — issued a call for a return to direct peace talks which U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said was a “concrete proposal.”
“The United States is very pleased that the Quartet was able to issue a statement today with a concrete and detailed proposal to begin a negotiation between the Israelis and the Palestinians without delay or pre-condition,” she said.
Abbas accepts negotiations are still necessary, but argues statehood will put Palestinians on a more equal footing. Israel sees the U.N. bid as an attempt to erode its own legitimacy.
Palestinians want to establish a state in the Gaza Strip, a coastal enclave controlled by Islamist Hamas who are opposed to peace talks, and in the West Bank with East Jerusalem as the capital, land Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War.