Palestinians Make a Surprise Move, and Mideast Talks Falter

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from The New York Times,

President Mahmoud Abbas met with Palestinian leaders

Surprising the United States and Israel, the Palestinian leadership formally submitted applications on Wednesday to join 15 international agencies, leaving the troubled Middle East talks brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry on the verge of breakdown.

The applications were signed by President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday evening as part of a move to gain the benefits of statehood outside the negotiation process.

They were delivered on Wednesday morning to Robert Serry, the United Nations special coordinator in the region, and, in relevant cases, to representatives of Switzerland and the Netherlands, according to Palestinian officials.

Riyad al-Malki, the Palestinian foreign minister, delivered the letters to Mr. Serry at a meeting in the West Bank city of Jericho between Mr. Serry and Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator.

Saskia Ramming, a spokeswoman for Mr. Serry, said the letters would be relayed to the appropriate body for each of the 15 treaties and conventions the Palestinians want to join, adding that there is “a whole procedure involved” in examining the documents. “You basically submit that you want to accede and then it goes to the depository and there’s a process of review,” Ms. Ramming said. “To say this takes effect tomorrow, that’s a bit misleading.”

Muhammad Shtayyeh, a senior adviser to Mr. Abbas and a former negotiator, said that the Palestinian move was a reaction to Israel’s failure to release a fourth batch of long-serving Palestinian prisoners by last Saturday and that the time for additional diplomatic maneuvering had run out.

“We waited three days, from March 29 until April 1, to give American diplomacy a chance and to give the Israelis a chance,” Mr. Shtayyeh said.

Mr. Abbas’s actions, which appeared to catch American and Israeli officials by surprise, [forced] Mr. Kerry to cancel a planned return to the region on Wednesday, in which he had expected to complete an agreement extending negotiations through 2015.

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