by William M. Reilly
UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 24 (Xinhua) -- Speakers during the general debate in the 66th UN General Assembly on Saturday covered issues ranging from ringing endorsement of the Palestinian bid for statehood to rejection of the diplomatic Quartet's proposed negotiation framework for the Israelis and Palestinians.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday petitioned the United Nations for full membership as a state followed almost immediately a negotiation framework proposal from the Middle East Quartet, made up of the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr said, "The just question of Palestine still remains after two full decades of fruitless negotiations without the desired settlement."
And the Palestinian people remain to this day deprived of acquiring their legitimate fundamental rights, on top of which the right in acquiring freedom and establishing their own independent state on the basis of the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital, he said.
"It has become totally absurd to carry on talking about a peace process while Israel continues (its policies), with total comfort and complete disregard to the objections of the countries of the world," he said.
The foreign minister cited the construction of Jewish settlements on Palestinian territory in the West Bank, its alteration of the features of East Jerusalem, its use of violence against civilians and its blockade of Gaza.
He said Abbas submitted the statehood request because "serious and just efforts toward a final settlement have stalled," and "achieving any significant progress in the negotiating process dwindled." The statehood request is now before the Security Council where it is expected to be vetoed by the United States.
Amr indicated that he is skeptical of the Quartet's proposal.
"We have witnessed yesterday another failure by the Quartet to come up with a balanced vision to achieve the goal that we all know and approve of, yet differ on how to realize it," he said, adding that Egypt will remain committed to the goals of Middle East peace and Palestinian unity.
"Egypt will carry on its efforts to end the Israeli settlements of the occupied Palestinian territory and to reach a solution to all the final issues in a specific, agreed-upon and internationally guaranteed time frame," he said.
Direct negotiations between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stalled in October 2010 when Abbas pulled out due to Israel's decision not to renew a moratorium on settlements in the West Bank.
Israel has said that the Palestinians' actions at the United Nations are an effort to bypass bilateral talks. But Abbas has denied the allegation.
Amr, also chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, reiterated the group's support to "the historical struggle of the brotherly Palestinian people to regain their legitimate rights as well as the movement's support to the efforts exerted toward declaring the establishment of the independent state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital and its admission as a full member of the United Nations."
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said his nation supported Palestine's request for full UN membership.
"People everywhere had the right to choose their own destiny and decide their own future," he said. "The international community had a role in transition and institution-building, but prescriptions must not be imposed from the outside."
Maltese Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said while there was a political stalemate on Palestinian negotiations, from an institutional perspective, preparations for its statehood had been successfully completed.
But, the situation on the ground complicates matters further and undermines the resumption of negotiations and goal of two viable states living side by side in peace, he said.
No effort should be spared to break the deadlock in Israeli-Palestinian talks, Gonzi said. Getting Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table with the necessary political will to embark on meaningful and sustainable negotiations remains the overriding goal.
"Agreement on parameters for negotiations would clearly be a step in the right direction," he said. "In this regard Malta is fully behind the efforts by the European Union to make this happen."
Carlos Gomes Junior, prime minister of Guinea Bissau, welcomed the request for statehood by the Palestinian authority.
"We encourage a constructive dialogue around the possibility of a peaceful coexistence and mutually advantageous cooperation" between the Israelis and Palestinians, he said.
Prime Minister Igor Luksic of Montenegro said an Israel-Palestine peace agreement in their mutual interests was a priority.
"If both sides refrain from violent actions, room will be created for confidence-building and a comprehensive solution to the Middle East issue, making Israel a safe country, to the benefit of both internationally recognized sides and creating prerequisites for Palestine to establish a stable state," he said.
Special Report: Palestine-Israel Conflicts