Palestinian aide disappointed by Obama’s UN speech

A senior Palestinian official voiced disappointment at U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech to the the United Nations on Wednesday, saying he had hoped for an expression of support for Palestinian freedom.

Obama urged Israel and the Palestinians to relaunch direct peace talks as he made a last-ditch attempt to avert a U.N. crisis over Palestinian statehood and pull his Middle East policy back from the brink of diplomatic disaster.

He also touched on the “Arab Spring” uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East, remarking how “change had come to Egypt and to the Arab World.”

Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary-general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), told Reuters there was “a gap between praising the struggle of Arab peoples for the sake of freedom and between an abstract call for negotiations between us and the Israelis.”

“We expected to hear that the freedom of the Palestinian people was key for the Arab Spring,” he said. “Freedom should cover the (whole) region.”

Abbas has vowed to submit to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon an application for full U.N. membership for Palestinian statehood when he addresses the General Assembly session in New York on Friday despite U.S. and Israeli opposition.

Israel and the United States oppose the idea of a Palestinian U.N. push, which Israel says is aimed at delegitimizing it. The Palestinians say it will enable direct peace talks to talk place between two equal, sovereign states.

“We are here at the United Nations to call for an active international intervention, including by America, to lay down the foundations for serious negotiations and foremost the recognition of a Palestinian state,” Abed Rabbo said.

“It is time that the policies of slipping away (from peace commitments), and continued annexation (of Palestinian land) be stopped,” he said.

Reporting by Ali Sawafta; Writing by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Alistair Lyon