Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas applied for statehood recognition at the United Nations in New York on Friday morning.
Abbas handed his application to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at about 11:30 a.m., various media reported, minutes ahead of his planned speech to the General Assembly.
The request now goes to the U.N. Security Council. If it garners a nine-vote majority of that body’s 15 members, the United States has vowed to veto it.
In that case, Abbas will take his case to the General Assembly, where he will ask for enhanced status.
Video of Mahmoud Abbas formally submitting and application for statehood to U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon. Story continues after the jump.
The request for statehood exposes Washington’s dwindling influence in a region shaken by Arab uprisings and shifting alliances that have pushed Israel, for all its military muscle, deeper into isolation.
“It is not a secret that the U.S. administration has done everything it could to prevent us from going (to the United Nations),” Abbas, 76, told reporters late on Thursday.
“But we’re going without any hesitation and we will continue whatever the pressure ... because we are asking for our right, because we want our independent state,” he added.
Video of Abbas’s address to the GA. Story continues after the jump.
Abbas will set out his case in a speech to the General Assembly, where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will also take the podium to argue that only direct negotiations between the two sides can lead to a Palestinian state.
President Barack Obama, who told the United Nations a year ago he hoped Palestinians would have a state by now, said on Wednesday that he shared frustration at the lack of progress.
But he said only Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, not actions at the United Nations, could bring peace—despite a long history of fruitless peace talks.
Abbas is resorting to United Nations even though Israeli and U.S. politicians have threatened financial reprisals that could cripple his Palestinian Authority, which rules the West Bank.
Should that happen, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said, the PA could dissolve itself, throwing responsibility for ruling the whole area back to Israel as the occupying power.
“We will invite you to become the only authority from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean,” Erekat told Israel Radio.
In the West Bank, Palestinians expressed a mix of pride and wary anticipation ahead of their U.N. claim to statehood.
Flags and portraits of Abbas and his predecessor, the late Yasser Arafat, draped buildings in a central Ramallah square where Palestinians awaited a live broadcast of Abbas’ speech.
“This is something we should have done a long time ago,” said Khaled Shtayyeh, 42, carrying a Palestinian flag. “It was always stopped by international pressure. I am very proud.”