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Abbas at UN: No Middle East peace without Palestinian rights

Palestinian Authority president appeals for funding from the international community as Palestinians face another deadly year
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters on 21 September 2023 in New York City.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during UN General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York City, on 21 September 2023(AFP)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, saying that Middle East peace is not achievable until Palestinians are granted full rights with statehood.

Abbas's remarks in New York come amid a push by the US to secure a deal to normalise relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, two adversaries in the region yet longtime US partners.

"Those who think that peace can prevail in the Middle East without the Palestinian people enjoying their full legitimate and national rights would be mistaken," Abbas said in the opening line of his speech.

The normalisation discussions are currently surrounded by a number of Saudi demands that require further US and Israeli deliberation. Those demands include a Saudi-US security pact as well as American help to establish a civil nuclear programme in the Saudi kingdom.

Saudi Arabia has also called for concessions for Palestinians, although it has not disclosed what those concessions would look like. Any real gains for Palestinians would be difficult for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to approve, given the far-right government he is currently in charge of and no foreseeable roadmap for negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.

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At the end of August, Axios reported that the Palestinian Authority (PA) had a list of demands it delivered to Saudi Arabia in exchange for its support for normalisation. These demands included changing the status of Area C to Area B, which would allow the areas to be handled by the PA while still under Israeli security control.

The other demands listed in the report include the opening of a Saudi consulate in Jerusalem and for the Israelis to resume final-status negotiations with a "clear timetable".

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in an interview with Fox News which aired on Wednesday, that normalisation with Israel was getting closer each day, but that "the Palestinian issue is very important. We need to solve that part".

Deadly year for Palestinians

During his UN address, Abbas wore a pin in the shape of a key, a symbol of the Nakba, which refers to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Zionist militias to make way for the creation of Israel in 1948. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Nakba, or the catastrophe.

Abbas's speech comes during a period of heightened Israeli violence towards Palestinians. Last year was the deadliest year for Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank since the Second Intifada.

This year is also shaping up to be one of the bloodiest for Palestinians. According to a tally by Middle East Eye, at least 222 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces this year, including 38 children.

Israeli military kills four Palestinians in Jenin, one in Gaza
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Meanwhile, Abbas's PA has lost control of parts of the occupied West Bank, including in Jenin where a new generation of Palestinian resistance has emerged.

The PA president reiterated an appeal he has made before, for the United Nations to convene a conference to try to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that collapsed in 2014.

Abbas added that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is in "dire need" of financial support. 

"Allow me here to tell you that as long as we continue to suffer under the apparent Israeli occupation, we will continue to need financial assistance from the international community."

Jordan's King Abdullah II also called for "sustainable funding" for UNRWA in his remarks at the UNGA on Tuesday.

The cash-strapped UN agency is facing a shortfall of about $200m, a spokesperson for UNRWA in Gaza told Middle East Eye earlier this month.

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