U.S. President in UN asserts need to continue direct negotiations, extension of moratorium, Palestinian statehood

President Abbas tells Israel it has to choose between peace and settlements

Lebanese President reiterates rejection of settlement of Palestinians in Lebanon, asserts liberation of occupied lands, commitment to resolution 1701

Egypt urges Israel to take tough decisions for peace

King Abdullah II of Jordan says development hinges on peace

Moroccan monarch discusses with Abbas track of negotiations, calls for establishment of Palestinian state on 1967 borders

President Obama made Middle East peace the focus of his address to the United Nations, asking for international and regional help in securing a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.

The president also offered a strong defense of Israel, making clear U.S. support for its ally, and again called on Iran's leadership to be more open in proving that its nuclear intentions are peaceful.

Obama, addressing the assembly in New York City for the second time as president, said that "after 60 years in the community of nations, Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate."

"Israel is a sovereign state, and the historic homeland of the Jewish people," Obama said. "It should be clear to all that efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States."

While Obama devoted much of his speech to the global economy and a press for human rights, the focus of the president's remarks was that while "peace must be made by Israelis and Palestinians … each of us has a responsibility to do our part as well."

"Those of us who are friends of Israel must understand that true security for the Jewish state requires an independent Palestine — one that allows the Palestinian people to live with dignity and opportunity," Obama says. "And those of us who are friends of the Palestinians must understand that the rights of the Palestinian people will be won only through peaceful means — including genuine reconciliation with a secure Israel."

As the president has successfully helped restart direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, he has repeatedly called for Arab countries in the region to demonstrate their support for peace.

Late last month, Obama kicked off the direct peace talks in Washington by inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Jordanian King Abdullah and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to the White House for talks and a working dinner.

In his speech to the UN, Obama said that while many representative nations have said they support peace, "these pledges must now be supported by deeds."

"Those who have signed on to the Arab Peace Initiative should seize this opportunity to make it real by describing and demonstrating the normalization that it promises Israel," Obama said. "Those who speak out for Palestinian self-government should help the Palestinian Authority with political and financial support, and — in so doing — help the Palestinians build the institutions of their state. And those who long to see an independent Palestine rise must stop trying to tear Israel down."

The president also threw down the gauntlet to the nations gathered, challenging them to move forward with action instead of symbolic measures.

"The conflict between Israelis and Arabs is as old as this institution," Obama said. "And we can come back here, next year, as we have for the last 60, and make long speeches about it. We can read familiar lists of grievances. We can table the same resolutions. We can further empower the forces of rejectionism and hate."

Or, Obama said, "we can say that this time will be different — that this time we will not let terror, or turbulence, or posturing, or petty politics stand in the way."

On Iran, the president said that "the door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it."

"But the Iranian government must demonstrate a clear and credible commitment, and confirm to the world the peaceful intent of its nuclear program," Obama said.

The president said that toughened UN sanctions on Iran "made it clear that international law is not an empty promise." "I offered the Islamic Republic of Iran an extended hand last year, and underscored that it has both rights and responsibilities as a member of the international community," Obama said. "I also said — in this hall — that Iran must be held accountable if it failed to meet those responsibilities. That is what we have done. Iran is the only party to the NPT that cannot demonstrate the peaceful intentions of its nuclear program, and those actions have consequences."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said there will be no peace deal with Israel unless the Jewish state stops settlement construction in areas the Palestinians claim for their future state.

"Israel must choose between peace and the continuation of settlements," Abbas said in his address to the U.N. General Assembly's annual ministerial meeting.

Direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians stalled only three weeks after starting in Washington in early September over the impending end of a 10-month freeze on new Israeli settlement construction on land claimed by the Palestinians.

Abbas reaffirmed the Palestinian commitment to try to reach a peace deal.

"We have decided to enter into final status negotiations. We will continue to exert every effort to reach an agreement for Palestinian-Israeli peace within one year in accordance with resolutions of international legitimacy ... and the vision of the two-state solution," Abbas told ministers and diplomats.

But with a deadline looming for Israel to resume the contested building, the Palestinians are waiting for U.S. efforts to break the impasse. President Barack Obama has increasingly placed efforts to resolve the conflict at the center of his foreign policy, but both Israeli and Palestinian officials said a deal was far from certain.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said U.S. special Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell met with Abbas for about half an hour.

"We remain engaged with both sides," he said.

Earlier, Crowley said, "We are doing everything we can to keep the parties in direct talks."

In his U.N. speech, Abbas said, "Our demands for the cessation of settlement activities, the lifting of the siege (of Gaza) and an end to all other illegal Israel policies and practices do not constitute arbitrary preconditions in the peace process."

These are past obligations that Israel is required to implement, he said, and Israel's implementation "will lead to the creation of the necessary environment for the success of the negotiations."

He said the Palestinians and the wider Middle East are continuously pushed into "the corner of violence and conflict" as a result of Israel's "mentality of expansion and domination."

The Palestinian president demanded an end to Israel's repeated flouting of U.N. resolutions, its destruction of the historical identity of Jerusalem, and its blockade of the Gaza Strip which he said has created massive suffering for the people living there and prevented reconstruction.

On the settlement dispute, some in Israel have proposed, for example, that limited building will resume but not the relatively unfettered construction that prevailed before the Israeli moratorium.

Palestinians say it is essential that Israel leave the restrictions on settlement construction in place.

Abbas has repeatedly warned that he will be forced to walk away from the direct negotiations if construction resumes.

The Palestinians claim all of the West Bank, home to 300,000 Jewish settlers, as part of a future state, and say that by expanding settlements, Israel is imposing facts on the ground that make it increasingly difficult to establish a viable country.

At the same time, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces heavy pressure within his pro-settler governing coalition to resume construction. Hard-line elements in the coalition could try to bring down the government if Netanyahu extends the settlement slowdown.

Pro-settler activists hauled bulldozers, cement mixers and other construction equipment into the Revava settlement in the northern West Bank. Danny Danon, a pro-settler lawmaker in Netanyahu's Likud Party, said activists would lay the cornerstone for a new neighborhood, the last day of the slowdown, and planned additional construction after the restrictions formally end.

In his U.N. address earlier this week, Obama called on Israel to extend the moratorium, saying it "has made a difference on the ground and improved the atmosphere for talks."

The Quartet of Mideast peacemakers – the U.S., U.N., European Union and Russia – made a similar plea to extend the moratorium.

"Restoring the credibility of the peace process requires compelling the government of Israel to comply with its obligations and commitments," Abbas said, "particularly to cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, especially in and around East Jerusalem, as well as the dismantling of the annexation apartheid wall."

The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. They also object to the separation barrier built by Israelis between the West Bank and Israel to prevent deadly suicide bombings. Some parts of the barrier cuts into Palestinian territory, leaving almost 10 percent of the West Bank on the Israeli side.

The Palestinians themselves are bitterly divided between Abbas' Fatah movement, which governs the West Bank, and the Hamas rulers of Gaza, a coastal strip seized by the Islamic militant group three years ago. Hamas doesn't recognize Israel and has denounced the U.S.-backed peace talks as illegitimate.

Meanwhile, Lebanese President Michel Sleiman reiterated Lebanon’s refusal to settle Palestinian refugees on its territories, saying such a step undermined stability in the country.

“Lebanon has said it will not accept the settlement of Palestinians for several reasons, especially due to dangers that will result from the settlement which will undermine security and stability,” he said when delivering Lebanon’s address at the UN General Assembly in New York.

Sleiman noted that the “issue of Palestinian refugees cannot be resolved through negotiations from [afar].”

The president highlighted the role of the international community in meeting the needs of Palestinian refugees by boosting its support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Sleiman touched on the continuous Israeli violations of Security Council Resolution 1701, which put an end to the summer 2006 war with Israel.

“At a time when Lebanon commits to Resolution 1701, Israel continues its violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty, and those are violations mentioned by [UN] Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his report. Also, Israeli spy networks require a response from the international community to prevent [Israel] from pursuing such aggression and to force it to withdraw from the Shebaa Farms, the Kfarshouba hills, and the northern part of the village of Ghajar,” said Sleiman, adding: “We retain our right to liberate the remaining [occupied] part of our land through all possible and legitimate means.”

The president praised efforts pursued by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), stressing “the importance of continuing its cooperation with the Lebanese Army.”

“This cooperation is only faced by arrogant actions taken by Israel … Israel is the main reason behind incidents occurring along the blue line,” Sleiman said.

He added that Lebanon “sought to cement its stability by abiding by Security Council resolutions and the Taif Accord.”

“The state is keen on respecting all constitutional deadlines whether in municipal or parliamentary polls,” said Sleiman, vowing to “continue in this path amid support from our people and friendly states.”

“Lebanon will remain open to dialogue, loyal to its message and keen on supporting what is right and promoting the values of freedom and consensus democracy on which it was established from the beginning,” said the president.

He praised “efforts to enhance the role of the Security Council away from double standards.”

Sleiman reiterated “Lebanon’s condemnation of international terrorism,” adding that Lebanon supported the adoption of a unified definition for international terrorism, that distinguished it from resisting occupation “which is endorsed by all laws.”

He said that despite its developmental and social role, the UN remains a political organization “par excellence.”

On the sidelines of the UN General assembly, Sleiman held talks with the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman.

Also, Sleiman discussed developments in Lebanon and the region with the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He also held talks with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

Earlier, Sleiman made a speech during a special meeting convened by delegation leaders to discuss means to support Somalia.

Sleiman endorsed Djibouti’s peace process and called for supporting the African Union’s mission to Somalia to enable it to restore peace in the country.

The president also attended a reception held by US President Barack Obama in honor of heads of delegations participating in the UN General Assembly.

Sleiman delivered an address to a Security Council session convened by his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul, during which he stressed that Lebanon was still looking forward to a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

Lebanon is currently the only Arab country member of the UN Security Council.

Sleiman stressed that “Lebanon will not accept any solution to the Middle East conflict in which it is not involved, or that contradicts its higher national interests, chief among them its right to reject any form of settlement of Palestinian refugees on its territories.”

Following the session, Sleiman discussed with Gul the regional situation, along with the role Lebanon was currently playing as a representative of the Arab states in the Security Council.

The two agreed on coordinating positions to serve mutual interests and stability in the region.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to extend a temporary moratorium on the building of settlements in the West Bank and called on the international community to stay united behind the peace talks.

Israel should “extend the moratorium on settlement construction that is about to end,” Mubarak said in Rome after meeting Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

His comments were translated into Italian from Arabic.

“I repeat the need for everyone to unite their efforts for the success of the negotiations,” said Mubarak, who is in Rome to attend the opening of an Egyptian museum.

U.S.-sponsored peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel are nearing a critical juncture with the scheduled Sept. 26 expiration of Israel’s 10-month moratorium on settlement construction. Netanyahu has said repeatedly he doesn’t plan to extend the freeze. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said he’ll abandon the talks, which began earlier this month, if construction resumes.

Mubarak hosted the second round of talks in Sharm el-Sheikh on Sept. 14.