Abbas signs U.N. treaties, putting peace talks with Israel in peril; Kerry scraps meeting
JERUSALEM — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas defied American diplomats on Tuesday by unilaterally signing more than a dozen United Nations treaties, endangering the U.S.-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
With the stroke of a pen, a pall of confusion descended as diplomats could not answer basic questions about how and when the peace negotiations will continue. Efforts to forge a final and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians is a centerpiece of the Obama administration's foreign policy.
Secretary of State John Kerry scrapped plans to visit Abbas on Wednesday for what he had hoped would be a last push for a breakthrough after eight months of talks. He played down the severity of the breach and stressed that Abbas has said he intends to continue talking.
Kerry's cancellation followed Abbas' announcement that he would sign the paperwork to allow the Palestinians to become parties to 15 U.N. treaties and protocols about the rights of women, children, the disabled and civilians in wartime.
The signing occurred as U.S. and Israeli negotiators were working on a broad outline for a bold plan to extend the talks, which would require Israel to slow settlement construction in the West Bank and release hundreds of additional Palestinian prisoners.
The late-afternoon developments followed a report earlier in the day that the United States was considering the potential release of Jonathan Pollard, a former Navy intelligence analyst convicted as an Israeli spy in 1987, as part of a broader deal that would keep the peace talks under way at least through 2015.
The Palestinians would in turn agree not to pursue recognition of a sovereign Palestinian state or other redress through the United Nations to keep alive hopes for a negotiated solution.