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Abbas at UN says Israel blocks Middle East development

UNITED NATIONS: Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas told the United Nations on Tuesday that Israel was hindering development in the Middle East with the occupation of Palestinian territories and again called for an independent state of Palestine.

Abbas spoke at a ceremony marking the handover of the chair of the Group of 77 and China from Egypt to the observer-state of Palestine, raising the Palestinians’ profile by leading the biggest UN bloc of developing countries.

“Israel’s continued colonization and occupation of the state of Palestine undermines our development and capacity for cooperation, coordination and obstructs the cohesive future development of all peoples of the region,” Abbas told the gathering.

The Palestinian leader said he was committed to a “peaceful solution that brings an end to the occupation and the realization of the independence of the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, living side-by-side in peace and security with the state of Israel.”

The Palestinians reacted furiously to President Donald Trump’s decision in December 2017 to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, breaking with the international consensus that the status of the city would be decided in negotiations.

Abbas has broken off ties with the Trump administration and has vowed to oppose any US peace proposal that he has warned would be biased in favor of Israel.

The Trump administration is preparing to roll out, possibly in the coming months, its much-awaited peace proposals — although Israeli elections scheduled for April could once again delay that plan.

The United States has also cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid for the Palestinians including funds to the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA), which was forced to scale back its education and health programs.

The General Assembly last year adopted a resolution granting the observer-state of Palestine additional rights to act as chair of the G77, a bloc of 134 countries at the United Nations.

The United States voted against that measure, arguing that the Palestinians should not be allowed to take the chair of the G77 because it is not a full member-state.

The Palestinians have non-member observer state status at the United Nations, which grants them certain privileges such as joining international treaties, but they do not have voting rights at the General Assembly.

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