RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — In a surprise move that could jeopardize U.S. peace efforts, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday resumed a bid for further Palestinian recognition by the United Nations, despite a promise to suspend such efforts during nine months of negotiations with Israel.
Abbas signed "State of Palestine" applications for 15 U.N. agencies in a hastily convened ceremony televised live from his West Bank headquarters. Abbas said he was compelled to take action because Israel had failed to carry out a promised released of veteran Palestinian prisoners.
"We will apply to 15 agencies and conventions immediately," Abbas said after leading members of his Fatah movement and the Palestine Liberation Organization supported the decision unanimously by a show of hands.
Abbas insisted that he is still interested in negotiating a deal with Israel on the terms of Palestinian statehood, saying he and his aides "will continue our efforts to reach a peaceful solution through negotiations."
Such talks resumed in late July, after a push by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and were to last for nine months, until the end of April. During this period, Abbas promised to suspend his U.N. bid, while Israel was to release 104 veteran Palestinian prisoners in four stages.
The Palestinians say the fourth group of prisoners was due to be released by the end of March, and that Israel failed to live up to its promise.
There was no immediate reaction from Israel and from Kerry, who has been mediating between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the past year.
It was not immediately clear if Abbas' decision was a negotiating tactic or signaled a fundamental shift in strategy. In his brief comments Tuesday, the Palestinian leader said he is "not seeking a conflict with anyone, particularly the U.S."
It was also uncertain if a meeting between Abbas and Kerry, tentatively arranged for Wednesday, would still take place.
Abbas' decision, meanwhile, also threw into doubt claims that a deal was emerging that would have extended Israel-Palestinian talks beyond an April 29 deadline and included the release of imprisoned American Jewish spy Jonathan Pollard.