The New York Times has reported that a selected group of journalists were at the Palestinian Presidential headquarters in the Muqata’a in Ramallah on Thursday, after President Mahmoud Abbas’ talks with U.S. envoys Dennis Ross and David Hale.
According to this account, written by the NYTimes’ Isabelle Kershner, “Mr. Abbas said that after they arrived at the United Nations on Sept. 19, the Palestinians would hand their application to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for submission to the Security Council, and that a copy would go to the General Assembly chief. Then, he said, the Palestinians will see what occurs. Earlier Thursday, Palestinian officials and supporters kicked off a popular campaign to accompany the United Nations bid, with several dozen people marching to the United Nations headquarters in Ramallah”.
There was some initial confusion elsewhere about this “popular campaign” delivering a letter to the UN office in Ramallah — with some, particularly in Israel, thinking that this was the presentation of the official request.
This was a matter taken up at the UN regular noon briefing for journalists at UNHQ/NY on Thursday, according to the transcript, here:
Question: Speaking of which, reports, there are reports out from Gaza, from, sorry, from Ramallah that some sort of Palestinian letter, either by the Palestinian Authority or by activists, was sent to the Secretary-General. Has such a letter been received by the Secretary-General? What is your understanding of this, the nature of this?
Deputy Spokesperson: Mr. Serry has received the letter and he is in the process of transmitting it to the Secretary-General.
Question: Received a letter from?
Deputy Spokesperson: From I believe it was an activist; a member of an NGO.
Question: An activist? Meaning you don’t perceive this to be an official Palestinian request for membership of the UN?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we’ll have to wait till the letter is received in the Secretary-General’s office and its contents are read.
Question: But you said Serry has already received it, so I assume that you know the content of it?
Deputy Spokesperson: No, I don’t know the content of it, no.
According to the NYTimes: “Mr. Abbas said that if the Quartet produced a package to pave the way back to negotiations that included an Israeli freeze on settlement construction and the use of the pre-1967 lines with agreed land swaps as the basis for talks on borders — both longstanding Palestinian demands — the Palestinians ‘will go to the United Nations and we will return back to talks’.”
Abbas also said: ” ‘To be frank with you, they came too late’, Mr. Abbas told a group of foreign reporters on Thursday evening at the Mukata, his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah. The international powers had ‘wasted all the time’ since the beginning of the year, he said, and even now, less than two weeks before the prospective bid at the United Nations, they still had not produced any concrete proposal. Mr. Abbas was speaking after meeting in recent days with two senior American diplomats, David Hale and Dennis Ross, and Tony Blair, the envoy of the so-called quartet of Middle East peacemakers that includes the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations. He said he had also spoken by telephone with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton this week”.