Abbas welcomes UN resolution, calls on Israel to talk peace
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Abbas welcomes UN resolution, calls on Israel to talk peace

Addressing Christmas dinner in Bethlehem, PA president says vote condemning settlements provides 'legal basics' for solution

Palestinian Authority President  Mahmoud Abbas congratulates Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa (R), apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, during the Christmas Midnight Mass in Saint Catherine's Church at the Church of the Nativity, on December 25, 2016 in Bethlehem, West Bank (AFP PHOTO AND POOL / MUSA AL SHAER)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas congratulates Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa (R), apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, during the Christmas Midnight Mass in Saint Catherine's Church at the Church of the Nativity, on December 25, 2016 in Bethlehem, West Bank (AFP PHOTO AND POOL / MUSA AL SHAER)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday night that the UN Security Council’s resolution condemning Israeli settlements was a step in the right direction for his people, asserting that it posited the “legal basics” for a two-state solution to the conflict and appealing to Israel to make peace.

“The voting in favor of the resolution hasn’t resolved the Palestinian cause, but defined it,” Abbas said at a Christmas dinner in Bethlehem, according to the official WAFA news agency. “The resolution stressed the legal basics for a solution and reiterated that Israeli settlement is illegal.”

Resolution 2334 declared that settlements in the West Bank and Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem have “no legal validity and constitute a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.” It also demanded an immediate halt to all settlement construction.

The resolution passed Friday by a 14-0 margin after the Obama administration, in a stunning departure from its policy over the last eight years, abstained in the vote. Originally initiated by Egypt, the resolution was co-sponsored by New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela and Senegal, which stepped in a day after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi withdrew the measure amid pressure from Israel and President-elect Donald Trump.

“The world said its word that settlement in the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem, is illegal,” Abbas said Saturday night, according to a translation of his remarks posted by Xinhua.

The Palestinian leader called on Israel “to sit together at the negotiation table to discuss all the outstanding issues between us and resolve them with good intentions… we are neighbors on this holy land and we want peace.

“You (Israel) have your state, and we can have our state, and then we can live side-by-side in peace and security,” he continued, going on to invoke the Arab Peace Initiative, under which 57 Arab and Islamic countries would normalize relations with Israel should it reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

On Friday, Palestinian officials hailed the Security Council’s vote as a “big blow” to Israeli policy and a “historic day.”

“The Security Council decision is a big blow for Israeli policies,” said Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh. It was “an international and unanimous condemnation of settlements and strong support for the two-state solution,” he told AFP.

Saeb Erekat, a former peace negotiator and the number two in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), spoke of a “historic day.”

The vote was a “clear and unanimous message to [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu that ‘your policies will not achieve peace and security for Israel or the region,'” he said. “The only way to peace is through the creation of an independent Palestinian state, and this is what the international community agreed upon today at the Security Council.”

The resolution was also welcomed by the Hamas terror group, which rules the Gaza Strip.

“Hamas appreciates the position of the countries that voted in the Security Council for the right of the Palestinian people on their land,” said spokesman Fawzi Barhoum. “We salute this important evolution in international positions,” he added, while calling for more actions to bring about “the end of the occupation.”

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