Peace talk deal aims to delay Palestinian UN bid

French President Nicolas Sarkozy addresses the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly Sept. 21, 2011.
AP Photo

Updated at 3:03 p.m. ET

UNITED NATIONS - French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed a one-year timetable Wednesday for Israel and the Palestinians to reach a peace accord, part of a concerted push with the United States to steer the Palestinians away from an application for U.N. membership.

At United Nations Headquarters, Palestinian Deputy Prime Minster Nabil Shaath told reporters that President Mahmoud Abbas will formally request U.N. membership on Friday and will ask for expedited consideration from the Security Council, CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk reports.

Sarkozy spoke at the General Assembly shortly after President Obama warned there could be no "shortcut" to peace and that negotiations, not U.N. declarations, were essential to a lasting peace.

Obama: Palestinian UN bid not short cut to peace

While Mr. Obama stopped short of calling directly calling on the Palestinians to drop their bid for full membership — an effort the U.S. has vowed to veto in the Security Council — Sarkozy sounded a more compromising tone and urged each side, and the international community, to approach the deadlocked process with new ideas and tactics.

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"Let us cease our endless debates on the parameters and let us being negotiations and adopt a precise and ambitious timetable," Sarkozy told the leaders and officials gathered at the U.N. "Sixty years without moving one centimeter forward, doesn't that suggest that we should change the method and the scheduling here?"

"Let's have one month to resume discussions, six months to find agreement on borders and security, one year to reach a definitive agreement," he said.

A senior European Union official said the proposal laid out by Sarkozy matched one by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton during a meeting with EU foreign ministers on Tuesday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions.

Abbas' push for full membership, which he has said would be submitted on Friday, has dominated this year's U.N. meeting, pushing the U.S. and Israel against a wall of international sympathy for Palestinians. While the full membership bid would meet with a certain U.S. veto in the Security Council, assuming the Palestinians muster enough votes to have it approved, they have succeeded in bringing the issue again to the forefront of the world's political discussions after years of failed negotiations, bickering and sporadic outbreaks of violence.

Sarkozy said that by setting preconditions, "we doom ourselves to failure. ... There must be no preconditions."

It remained unclear whether the latest proposal would be enough to avert a showdown over statehood that has consumed the U.N. over the past few days and sparked a frenzy of last-minute diplomatic door-knocking by the Israelis and the Palestinians, as well as a flurry of discussions between the Quartet of Mideast negotiators — the U.S., the E.U., the U.N. and Russia.

But the proposal outlined by Sarkozy received a warmer welcome from the Palestinians than Mr. Obama's comments.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior Abbas aide, told The Associated Press that the Palestinians "appreciate the speech and the positions included in that speech."

"The Palestinian leadership will study seriously the positions and the ideas in that speech," he said.

Mr. Obama's remarks, however, drew a lukewarm response, with the Palestinian delegation sporting stern and disapproving looks as the U.S. president spoke.

"Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations — if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now," the president told U.N. delegates. "Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians — not us — who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them."

Mr. Obama showed solidarity with Israel, not mentioning a return to the borders before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war in which Israel annexed territory. The remarks may rile some in the Arab world where mass uprisings against authoritarian regimes have also sparked a new measure of anti-U.S. sentiment. Mr. Obama's words also stood in stark contrast to the image he left behind when he addressed the Muslim world from Cairo in 2009, pledging to improve relations and cooperation.

Senior Palestinian officials said Abbas will reiterate to Mr. Obama his decision to move forward with the application for membership that will be submitted to the Security Council. But they also said that the Palestinians seek to cooperate with the U.S. and will be ready to return to the negotiating table once a solid foundation for talks was in place.

Nabil Abu Redeineh said that "peace in the Middle East needs an immediate end of the Israeli occupation" and that the U.S. needs to pressure Israel to immediately withdraw from lands annexed in 1967. The Palestinians are ready to return to talks "the minute Israel accepts" those borders and stops settlement building, he said.

Mr. Obama was scheduled to meet later Wednesday with Abbas.

He met earlier in the day with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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With Mr. Obama at his side, the Israeli premier said the Palestinian bid to appeal directly to the U.N. was a short cut that "will not succeed." Netanyahu also lauded Mr. Obama for speaking up on principle.