Abbas at UN: 'Palestine is being reborn'

Palestinians celebrate UN speech by president after he submits membership request to chief of the world body.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has handed over a historic request to UN chief Ban Ki-moon asking the United Nations to admit the state of Palestine as a full member.

The Palestinian leader won huge applause and a standing ovation on Friday from some of the assembly as he entered the hall before beginning his speech.

Abbas said he was ready to return to the negotiations, saying he did not want to isolate or delegitimize Israel.

"Here I declare that the Palestine Liberation Organization is ready to return immediately to the negotiating table on the basis of the adopted terms of reference … and a complete cessation of settlement activities," he told the UN General Assembly.

But he maintained previous peace talks were “smashed against the rocks of the positions of the Israeli government, which quickly dashed the hopes raised by the launch of negotiations last September”.

Palestinians across the West Bank celebrated the formal submission of their bid to become a United Nations member state, despite opposition from the United States and Israel.

In city centres, giant television screens were set up so residents could watch Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, deliver a historic address to the 193 member states of the UN General Assembly. 

The Palestinian religious affairs ministry directed mosques to issue calls “thanking Allah and asking him to help president Abbas to fulfill our people’s dreams”.

In Ramallah, the political capital of the West Bank, many cars were flying the Palestinian flag, and posters of Abbas and his predecessor, the late Yasser Arafat, festooned in the streets.

"I’ve heard a chant tonight that I’ve never heard before," Al Jazeera’s Cal Perry, reporting from Ramallah, said.

"People are chanting for Mahmoud Abbas. His speech was really playing to the next generation. Tonight we have seen spontaneous shows of support for Abbas, who has sometimes seen cascading public support."

Near the Muqataa, Abbas’s presidential headquarters, flags of the more than 125 nations that have recognised a Palestinian state flew in a circle around a Palestinian flag.

But in a sign of mounting tension, one Palestinian man died after being shot by Israeli troops who intervened in a clash between villagers and Jewish settlers south of the West Bank city of Nablus.