Abbas tells U.N.: Israel deals are off

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SETH WENIG / Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS - Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told world leaders Wednesday that he is no longer bound by agreements that have defined relations with Israel for the last two decades and are meant to form the basis for a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict.

But what sounded like a potentially explosive declaration was blunted by the lack of any detail on how he plans to move forward.

Addressing the U.N. General Assembly, Abbas said Israel had repeatedly violated its commitments, most notably by expanding settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, on lands the Palestinians seek for a future state.

Abbas' speech reflected growing Palestinian frustration and appeared aimed at focusing the attention of the international community - busy with the Syrian civil war and the migrants' crisis in Europe - on the long-festering Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

However, the Palestinian leader stopped short of specific threats that would irrevocably put him on a collision course with Israel, such as suspending security cooperation. Instead, he closed on a conciliatory note, saying that eventual peace between Israelis and Palestinians is "in the interest of our future generations."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office issued a statement in response, saying that Abbas had delivered a "speech of lies that encourages incitement and unrest in the Middle East."

Netanyahu called on Abbas to "act responsibly" and answer his proposal for direct negotiations with Israel without any preconditions. "The fact that time after time he [Abbas] does not respond is the best proof that he has no intention of reaching a peace agreement," he said.

No serious talks have been held since Netanyahu came to power in 2009. Abbas says he will not return to negotiations without a settlement freeze and an Israeli recognition of the pre-1967 frontier as the basis for border talks. Unlike some of his predecessors, Netanyahu has refused to accept the 1967 line as a starting point.

Abbas said Wednesday that Israel has repeatedly violated its commitments, including by expanding settlements, and called on the U.N. to provide international protection for the Palestinians.