Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said his efforts to seek UN membership for the Palestinians would not affect negotiations “that we want to continue to have” with Israel.
Abbas is in Spain as part of a foreign tour aimed at drumming up support for United Nations recognition of a Palestinian state amid a long stalemate in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
But the Palestinians’ plan to seek UN membership for a state on the lines that existed before the 1967 Six Day War is opposed by among others Israel and the United States. It risks being blocked by a US veto at the UN Security Council.
“Whatever happens and whatever the reaction and the result of our action in the UN, we know conclusively that we will return to the negotiating table to reach the best solutions with the Israelis,” Abbas said in a speech in Arabic at the headquarters of the Union for the Mediterranean in Barcelona.
“The efforts that we have taken to go to the United Nations in September will not be detrimental to peace nor to negotiations that we want to continue to have.”
The speech came hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was willing to hold peace talks with the Palestinians immediately.
“I’m prepared to negotiate with president Abbas directly for peace between our two peoples right now. We can do it here in my home in Jerusalem, we can do it in Ramallah (in the West Bank), we can do it anywhere,” he told Arabic-language television station Al-Arabiya.
Talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been on hold since September over the issue of settlement construction.
The negotiations broke down shortly after they started when a partial settlement freeze expired, which Israel refused to renew.
Since then, the Palestinians have said they will not talk while Israel builds on land they want for their future state, turning instead to the United Nations where they hope to obtain recognition and membership for a state on the lines that existed before the Six Day War.
The United States has been cool to the idea of UN recognition and has urged the Palestinians and Israel not to take unilateral steps that could jeopardise a final peace settlement.
During talks with Abbas in Madrid earlier, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero urged Israel and the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.
Zapatero called for “work to continue on finding a consensual solution that will allow both sides to resume their dialogue and return to the bargaining table”, the Spanish government said in a statement.
Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez later said Spain was linking any recognition of a Palestinian state to efforts by the Israelis and Palestinians to agree on the “basic elements” of a solution.