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Palestinian Authority President No Longer Wants U.S. To Lead Peace Efforts


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is making a pitch to the U.N. Security Council. Hold an international peace conference this year to salvage the idea of a Palestinian state. The Palestinian leader doesn't want the U.S. in charge of the peace process after the Trump administration's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. NPR's Michele Kelemen has more.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says last year he was open to President Trump's talk of an historic peace deal. That was until Trump took what Abbas called a dangerous move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Abbas spoke to the U.N. Security Council through an interpreter.


PRESIDENT MAHMOUD ABBAS: (Through interpreter) It did so ignoring that East Jerusalem is part of the Palestinian territory it has occupied since 1967, and it is our capital.

KELEMEN: Abbas argues that international law is on his side, pointing to numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions that he says endorse Palestinian hopes for an independent state and claims for part of Jerusalem.


ABBAS: (Through interpreter) Israel is acting as a state above the law. It has transformed the occupation from a temporary situation as per international law into a situation of permanent settlement colonization.

KELEMEN: U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley sat with her arms crossed as the Palestinian leader spoke - behind her, President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt. The U.S. says its announcement on Jerusalem simply recognizes that the city is the seat of Israel's government, and Haley says it's Abbas who has a choice to make.


NIKKI HALEY: You can choose to denounce the United States, reject the U.S. role on peace talks and pursue punitive measures against Israel in international forums like the U.N. I assure you that path will get the Palestinian people exactly nowhere.

KELEMEN: Or, she says, Abbas can negotiate.


HALEY: Our negotiators are sitting right behind me, ready to talk. But we will not chase after you. The choice, Mr. President, is yours.

KELEMEN: Abbas, though, left the council well before Haley spoke and before Israel's ambassador, Danny Danon, had a chance to respond.


DANNY DANON: Mr. Abbas came in. He put his demands on the table, and he left. And he's expecting you to deliver the results. It's not going to work that way.

KELEMEN: Abbas is calling for an international conference by the middle of this year. The Trump administration meantime says it's working on a peace plan that the U.S. will present, quote, "when the time is right." Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.