(Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday he would seek to have the Palestinians' U.N. status upgraded to a sovereign country and cautioned that Israeli settlement expansion meant time was running out for a two-state solution.
"Despite all the complexities of the prevailing reality and all the frustrations that abound, we say before the international community there is still a chance - maybe the last - to save the two-state solution and to salvage peace," Abbas told the U.N. General Assembly.
But he warned the 193-nation assembly that Israel was "promising the Palestinian people a new catastrophe" if it continues with its current Jewish settlement policies in the occupied West Bank.
The so-called two-state solution involves the creation of a state of Palestine to exist peacefully alongside Israel.
After failing last year to win recognition of full statehood for the Palestinians at the United Nations, Abbas is looking for a less-ambitious status upgrade.
This time around, he looks certain to get his way, U.N. diplomats say, but the resolution he plans will not bring true independence any nearer. It will also anger the United States as well as Israel, which is likely to retaliate with painful economic countermeasures.
Abbas made clear that seeking an upgrade of Palestinian membership from the current status as an observer "entity" was not aimed at harming Israel.
"In our endeavor, we do not seek to delegitimize an existing state - that is Israel - but to assert the state that must be realized - that is Palestine," he said.
There have been no direct Palestinian talks with Israel since 2010, when the Palestinians refused to resume negotiations unless the Israeli government suspended settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Palestinians say the Jewish settlement building is killing off chances of them ever creating a coherent state.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday the two-state solution was the only sustainable option for peace. But he said the continued growth of Israeli settlements meant that "the door may be closing, for good."