Abbas hails 'historic' UN vote
UNITED NATIONS - Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday that a UN vote to make Palestine a non-member state was a "historic" step toward independence alongside Israel.
But he added that the Palestinians still face a "long road" to getting their own country and also appealed for an end to divisions with the rival Hamas group which rules Gaza.
Abbas was introduced by Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as "president of the state of Palestine" at a reception after the overwhelming UN General Assembly vote to recognize Palestine as a non-member state.
"Indeed today is a historic day. Today we have really taken a step on the path to Palestinian independence," Abbas told gathered diplomats and journalists.
"Tomorrow we begin the real war," he added. "We have a long road and difficult road ahead of us. I don't want to spoil our victory tonight but the road ahead is still difficult."
A resolution elevating the Palestinians' diplomatic status was backed 138-9 with 41 abstentions in the vote, despite fierce lobbying by the United States and Israel. The Philippines was among the 138 countries that voted in favor of the Palestinian bid.
"We are committed to achieving our rights through peace and negotiations," Abbas said. "We will not be scared and we will continue to exert every possible effort to achieve our endeavor peacefully.”
"This is our policy, this is our strategy, we have adopted a long term goal and tonight we saw the international community standing shoulder to shoulder with us as Palestinians."
Abbas said divisions between his Fatah group and Hamas had to end.
"Internally as Palestinians we have a wound, that is the split and now it is time to end the split, it is time for Palestinian reconciliation," Abbas said.
The two groups have been at loggerheads since 2006, when the Islamist Hamas won elections in Gaza. The following year it seized power and ended a power-sharing deal with Abbas's secular Fatah party. – Agence France-Presse