Obama urges Abbas to abandon push for upgraded UN status

President Obama on Sunday urged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to not push for observer-state status at the United Nations. 

“President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to Middle East peace and his strong support for direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians with the objective of two states living side by side in peace and security,” said the White House in a readout of the call. “He also reiterated the United States' opposition to unilateral efforts at the United Nations.”

The Palestinians currently hold observer status as an entity, but their leaders are seeking to upgrade to non-member state status, which the U.S. and Israel oppose.

Abbas sought full U.N. membership last year, but that bid was blocked due to U.S. opposition. But in his speech at the U.N. this September, Abbas pledged to once again push for the U.N. to recognize Palestine as a state.

The U.N. General Assembly is likely to approve granting Palestine observer-state status in a vote, and while the designation falls short of full member-state status, it would give the Palestinians access to other U.N. institutions such as the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Reuters said that Abbas attempted to explain his decision in the phone conversation with Obama. 

“President Abbas cited the reasons and motives for the Palestinian decision to seek non-member statehood as continued Israeli settlement activity and the continued attacks on Palestinians and their property,” said Abbas aide Abu Rdaineh, as reported by Reuters. 

The Obama administration has said that any recognition of Palestinian statehood, though, should be granted through negotiations with Israel.