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August 19, 2017

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Abbas seeks super observer status for Palestinians

UNITED NATIONS -- President Mahmoud Abbas sought a new super observer U.N. status Thursday for Palestinians as he condemned Israel's settlement campaign in the occupied territories as "ethnic cleansing."

One year after his emotional bid for full membership of the United Nations, Abbas returned to the U.N. General Assembly to warn that Israel's tactics were a sign that it "rejects the two-state solution."

He called on the U.N. Security Council to pass a binding resolution setting out a path to end the two-year deadlock in talks between the Palestinians and Israel.

The Palestinians' bid for full U.N. membership has been blocked at the Security Council by the United States. So Abbas returned to seek a more modest strengthening of the Palestinians' existing U.N. observer status.

He said he would seek a vote at the U.N. General Assembly in the coming months to approve Palestine as a "nonmember state of the United Nations."

As a permanent Security Council member, the United States can veto any council resolution backing full membership for the Palestinians. But no country can block a resolution in the General Assembly.

"Developments over the past year have confirmed what we have persistently drawn attention to and warned of: the catastrophic danger of the racist Israeli settlement of our country, Palestine," Abbas said, lashing out at "attacks by terrorist militias of Israeli settlers."

He said the new settlements in and around Jerusalem and demolition of Palestinian homes are "a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people." Israeli authorities say the houses they demolish are illegal.

"They are unleashing their venom against our trees, fields, crops and properties, and our people have become fixed targets for acts of killing and abuse with the complete collusion of the occupying forces and the Israeli government," Abbas said.

Abbas' Speech 'libelous': Netanyahu

Netanyahu, who has strongly opposed Palestinian attempts to secure greater international recognition, responded that Israel wants "a durable peace with the Palestinians."

"We won't solve our conflict with libelous speeches at the U.N. That's not the way to solve them. We won't solve our conflict with unilateral declarations of statehood," he added.

"We have to sit together, negotiate together and reach a mutual compromise in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the one and only Jewish state."

Gaza's Hamas government also denounced the address by Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, who heads the rival Fatah group.

"We repeat that it would be better for Abu Mazen to proclaim the death of the negotiations and of compromise," said Taher al-Nunu, a spokesman for the Hamas government, who called Abbas's address "emotional."

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