CAIRO, Egypt Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says efforts to win U.N. recognition for a Palestinian state are "irreversible" and have wide international support, but they don't mean the end of negotiations with Israel.
Abbas was speaking Tuesday to newspaper editors in Cairo following a meeting with Arab foreign ministers, who discussed the Palestinian U.N. initiative. The Arab League offered support for Abbas but said he will determine if he will seek recognition from the General Assembly, or would take the issue to the Security Council. The U.S. and the Israel oppose the move.
Abbas said 126 countries back the initiative. He said it was not a symbolic move, but one that would strength his negotiating position with Israel.
Video: Interview with Israel's U.N. ambassador
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is making a final effort to avert a diplomatic crisis over a Palestinian drive to win U.N. recognition as an independent state that threatens to provoke a regional meltdown and further isolate Israel, the top U.S. ally in the Mideast.
The administration's top two Mideast envoys were leaving Tuesday for Israel and the Palestinian territories to try to persuade the Palestinians to drop their U.N. plans and bring both sides back to long-stalled talks. At the same time, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns was visiting Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates this week in part to seek Arab support for a still-undefined plan that could defuse the situation.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she was sending David Hale, the special envoy for Middle East peace, and Dennis Ross, the top Mideast adviser at the National Security Council, to try "to create a sustainable platform for negotiations that can produce the two-state outcome that we seek."
"Our hope is we get the parties back into a frame of mind and into a process where they actually begin negotiating again," Clinton told reporters at the State Department.
The Palestinian bid for recognition comes at a particularly delicate time in the Middle East, especially as it relates to Israel and its neighbors. Once-strong ties between Israel and Turkey have frayed in recent weeks over Israel's refusal to apologize for its deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla last year that killed nine Turks. And, the Jewish state's ties with Egypt have been tested by the weekend attack on the Israeli Embassy in Cairo.
The U.S., which regards all three countries as crucial allies, has moved to try to ease tensions but both Turkey and Egypt are expected to support Palestinian moves at the U.N, which will further strain ties.