Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rang in the New Year Monday night by declaring that 2013 would be the year that saw Palestinian independence.
Speaking to supporters of his Fatah movement in Ramallah, Abbas said the Palestinians would transform the “birth certificate” given them by UN recognition, into statehood.
“We have a birth certificate … and we want to complete the march toward full independence,” he said.
In November, the UN voted in Palestine as a nonmember observer state. Abbas used similar “birth certificate” terminology in a speech directly before the November 29 vote. Israel, the US and just seven other countries opposed the move as hurting chances for a negotiated settlement.
Earlier in the day, Abbas said he would be willing to enter direct talks with Israel, an apparent about face from the Palestinian leader’s previous position, which called for a settlement construction freeze as a precondition for negotiations.
In a televised speech marking the Fatah anniversary, Abbas said he supports “the calls for an international peace conference under which the Palestinians would negotiate directly with Israelis within a time frame.”
Israel had no comment. In the past, Israel has called for resumption of peace talks with no preconditions.
Fatah, which celebrates its anniversary along with the New Year, was scheduled to hold a rally in Gaza on Tuesday, seen as a sign of reconciliation with rival group Hamas, which rules the Strip.
Abbas said the Palestinians wanted a unity deal between the two groups, which have been at odds since 2007.
He called on the sides “to build on what has been achieved with the recognition of our state and the steadfastness in the face of Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip,” according to AFP.
A unity deal with Hamas, a terror group which officially rejects the existence of Israel, could prove a roadblock in resumed talks.
Israel refuses to negotiate with the group and both Jerusalem and Washington have expressed misgivings about Hamas entering the Palestinian Authority’s leadership ranks.
In December, Hamas members held rallies to mark their 25th anniversary in the West Bank, the first time they were able to celebrate in the Palestinian territory in five years.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.