Abbas Calls for 'Immediate Negotiations' in the Recognition of a Palestinian State

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of Palestine and the Palestinian National Authority, speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting at U.N. headquarters, in New York, on February 20. Abbas called for an international Middle East peace conference to be convened later this year. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday called for immediate negotiations in the recognition of a Palestinian state, hoping to lay the groundwork for peace in the Middle East.

"We are ready to begin negotiations immediately in order to achieve the freedom and independence of our people," Abbas said in a speech to the United Nation's Security Council in New York.

Accusing the U.S. of overrunning its power as chief negotiator for the peace process, the Palestinian leader told the Security Council: "It is essential to establish a multilateral international mechanism." A peace conference by mid-2018 would set the course for full U.N. membership for Palestine and a two-state solution, he added.

Tensions have heightened as President Donald Trump in December formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, announcing also his intent to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv. The proposed move has since set off a flurry of widespread condemnations, as Abbas called it a "slap in the face" to Palestinians.

The U.N. has said that Trump made a bad decision, voting by a sliding majority in December by the General Assembly against the measure.

On Tuesday, Abbas called Trump's reversal of the long-standing U.S. position on Jerusalem "dangerous" and chided Washington for undertaking an "unlawful decision." The U.S. has previously held that Jerusalem's final status be determined by a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The 82-year-old Palestinian leader reiterated his claim that East Jerusalem would be the capital of the future Palestinian state and left the Security Council chambers right after speaking.

The U.S. last month withdrew more than half of its funding for the U.N. Relief Agency for Palestinians (UNRWA). Stirring up a backlash from the world community, Trump's U.N. cuts stoked fears it could push instability in the region, with the humanitarian situation being dire. Many have called it a politically motivated move as Trump works to bring Palestinians to the negotiating table toward what he calls the "ultimate deal" for lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis.

Details of the proposal have been kept under wraps by the White House with no time frame as of yet.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley charged later in the meeting that Trump's Jerusalem move "will not change." She echoed past declarations about the refusal of the U.S. to "chase"Palestinian leaders for peace.

"Our negotiators are sitting right behind me, ready to talk, but we will not chase after you. The choice, Mr. President, is yours," Haley said.

Trump's Middle East peace team—which includes senior White House adviser Jared Kushner and Jason D. Greenblatt, the president's lead envoy for negotiations—made the unprecedented trip to the Security Council. They have been dispatched in and out of the Middle East to come up with a peace blueprint since Trump took office.

"I assure you that path will get the Palestinian people exactly nowhere toward the achievement of their aspirations," Haley warned of Abbas's solution.

Israel's Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon accused Abbas of "running away" when he got up and left the Security Council's table. Danon declared that the Palestinian leader was "not part of the solution" but instead "the problem."

Meanwhile, the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres gave strong support to a two-state solution and declared that there is "no plan B." He previously warned that "the global consensus for a two-state solution could be eroding."