RAMALLAH, West Bank – In a surprise move that could derail U.S. peace efforts, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday resumed a campaign for further international recognition of a state of Palestine, despite a previous promise to suspend such efforts during nine months of negotiations with Israel.
Shortly after Abbas’ announcement, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry canceled plans to return to the Middle East today, but he said it’s completely premature to write off the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks he restarted in late July.
We are continuing, even now ... to be engaged with both parties, Kerry told a news conference in Brussels, where he was attending a meeting of NATO foreign ministers. We urge both sides to show restraint while we work with them.
There was no immediate Israeli comment. However, Abbas’ decision threw into doubt Israeli claims that a deal was emerging that would have extended Israel-Palestinian talks beyond an April 29 deadline and included the release of Jonathan Pollard, an American convicted of spying on the U.S. in the 1980s.
In a hastily convened ceremony televised live from his West Bank headquarters, Abbas signed applications for Palestinians to join 15 international treaties and conventions. Abbas said he was compelled to act because Israel had failed to carry out a promised release of Palestinian prisoners by the end of March.
At the same time, Abbas said he is not seeking a confrontation with the United States and remains determined to reach a peaceful solution through negotiations with Israel.