UNITED NATIONS Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas pledged Thursday to continue recently resumed negotiations with Israel with "an insistence on success" and the aim of reaching a permanent peace accord within nine months.
Addressing the U.N. General Assembly for the first time representing the state of Palestine, Abbas stressed that the Palestinians will reject any interim or transitional agreement that could become "eternalized."
"Our objective is to achieve a permanent and comprehensive agreement and a peace treaty between the state of Palestine and Israel that resolves all outstanding issues and answers all questions, which allows us to officially declare an end of conflict and claims," he said.
Abbas warned that "time is running out" and opportunities are diminishing to end the decades-old Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
"The current round of negotiations appears to be a last chance to realize a just peace," he said. "Merely thinking of the catastrophic and frightening consequences of failure must compel the international community to intensify efforts to seize upon this chance."
Abbas was loudly applauded when he opened his speech by saying he was honored to address the General Assembly for the first time since it raised Palestine's status to a non-member observer state last year "in the name of the state of Palestine." Before and after his speech, he was accorded the same honors as other world leaders.
U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said the U.N. legal affairs office had looked into whether Abbas would be allowed to use the head of state's chair near the podium of the General Assembly hall and decided that as a non-member observer state, he was. Nesirky said the legal precedent was that the Pope had been allowed to use the chair when he addressed the General Assembly as head of the Holy See, which is also a non-member state.
Abbas said the start of negotiations is "good news," but he stressed that the international community must "exert every effort to make them succeed" by pressing for adherence to the terms of reference and a permanent peace deal and condemning and stopping any actions on the ground that would undermine negotiations.
"I refer here, above all, to the continuation of settlement construction on our Palestinian land, particularly in Jerusalem," he said.
Since the beginning of the year, Israel has continued construction on thousands of settlement units and issued construction tenders for thousands of others on Palestinian land, Abbas said, and since January, "708 terrorist attacks have been perpetrated by settlers against our mosques and churches, and against olive trees, farming fields and homes and property of Palestinians."
Abbas said he is confident the Israeli people want peace and that a majority supports a two-state solution.
"Therefore, what is required is to heed the lesson of history, to abandon the mentality of force and occupation, to recognize the rights of others, and to deal on an equal footing and parity to make peace," he said.
"What is required is to stop relying on exaggerated security pretexts and obsessions in order to consecrate occupation, and to stop contriving demands that push the conflict from its defined political terrain towards the abyss of religious conflict in a region burdened with such sensitivities - a matter that we categorically refuse," he said.
Abbas ended his speech saying his own dream is to see "a just peace" so this generation can pass on to their children and grandchildren "the flag of an independent state of Palestine" and urging the international community to intensify efforts to make this happen.
Ministers and diplomats in the assembly chamber responded with one of the most sustained rounds of applause for any speaker so far.