French President Nicolas Sarkozy and US President Barack Obama plan to heap pressure on their Palestinian counterpart today in a concerted push to persuade Mahmoud Abbas to end his bid for full UN membership and to instead seek upgraded status in the world body. The presidents will make their pitches during speeches at the opening session of the UN General Assembly, and Obama will make the same argument in private when he meets with Abbas today. Abbas was expected to deliver a formal request for statehood recognition Friday.
While Obama will formally ask Abbas not to pursue the statehood bid, the mission is actually directed at containing the fallout by urging the Palestinian leader not to push for an actual vote in the Council, where the US has promised a veto. A delay would give international peacemakers time to produce a statement that would be the basis for resumed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Sarkozy met with Abbas yesterday, and diplomats close to the talks say he told the Palestinian leader that he would outline a proposal for the Palestinians to seek upgraded status with the General Assembly, where no member holds a veto.