Abbas: Europe must back Palestine
Strasbourg - Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas called on Europe to back the "Palestinian spring" by supporting his government's bid to win a place at the United Nations.
"Today we are at the heart of the Arab spring: we say that the hour of the Palestinian spring has struck," he said in a speech to the parliamentary assembly of the 47-nation Council of Europe.
"You supported the Arab spring which was seeking democracy and freedom," he said.
"Now the Palestinian spring has arrived, asking for freedom and an end to the (Israeli) occupation.
"We deserve your support."
Abbas hailed the assembly's decision on Tuesday to grant "Partner for Democracy Status" to the Palestinian National Council, the legislative arm of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
Recognising Israel’s right to exist
The status will enable the PNC to participate in the Europe assembly's proceedings, without voting rights.
In return the parliamentary assembly will monitor Palestinian moves in several areas, including "refraining from violence, rejecting terrorism (and) recognising the right of Israel to exist".
Abbas last month made an application to the UN seeking full membership status, a move the United States has vowed to block.
Abbas said that "by submitting this request, we are not seeking to isolate Israel or delegitimise it."
"Though there were many attempts at provocation by the Israeli side, we will not let them drive us to extremism, we will not go that way."
The Palestinian leader again stressed that a halt to Israeli settlement activity was essential for resuming the peace process, and slammed demands by Benjamin Netanyahu's government for Israel to be recognised as the state of the Jewish people.
‘An unacceptable precondition’
"What makes things more complicated is the fact that the Netanyahu government is insisting on laying down new and impossible conditions which have no basis in the terms of reference for peace or the resolutions adopted under international law," he said.
"The demand that the Palestinians recognise Israel as a 'Jewish' state is an unacceptable precondition, because there is a danger that it will turn the conflict raging in our region into a destructive religious conflict," he warned.
"Faced with the increasing suffering of our people under the occupation" and stalemate in negotiations with Israel, "our only alternative has been to turn to the international community and call on it to take action to open up new horizons for the peace process, through recognition of the state of Palestine, on the basis of the 4 June 1967 borders, and accept its accession as a full member of the United Nations," he said.