Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon exchange accusations at UN climate deal signing ceremony
The Palestinian president and Israel's ambassador to the United Nations traded barbs on Friday during a signing ceremony for the Paris climate accord, in the latest example of continuing Israeli-Palestinian tensions.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who signed the agreement on behalf of the Palestinians, took advantage of the presence of some 60 world leaders at the UN General Assembly to criticise Israel.
"The Israeli occupation is destroying the climate in Palestine, and the Israeli settlements are destroying the environment in Palestine," Abbas told the UN assembly. "Please help us in putting an end to the occupation and to settlements."
Israel has been occupying a significant portion of Palestinian territory and building settlements those areas that international community considers as illegal.
Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon responded sharply when he addressed the ceremony, in which 175 states signed and 15 ratified the Paris accord.
Danon accused Abbas of spreading hatred and exploiting the ceremony.
"This climate summit is supposed to be a demonstration of global unity for the sake of the future of our planet," he said. "Unfortunately, President Abbas chose to exploit this international stage to mislead the international community."
Earlier this week, Danon and Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour yelled "shame on you" at each other during a regular UN Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East. That meeting turned into a rare shouting match.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been in tatters since 2014, when Israeli operation in Gaza killed over two thousand people.
Abbas' presence at the signing ceremony had symbolic importance in the wake of Palestine's de facto recognition of statehood by the United Nations, which since 2012 has considered Palestine a non-member observer state.
It was the first time a Palestinian president sat in the General Assembly hall as a state party to a treaty at a signing ceremony.
Palestine's accession to the treaty could lead to complications for the United States, which has a law barring US funding for "any organisation or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood."
US senators sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry saying that Palestine's participation in the UN climate change secretariat and the Paris Agreement would prohibit the United States from paying money into a global climate fund.
The letter, signed by 21 Republican senators, was the latest attempt by Congressional Republicans to block US participation in global climate initiatives.
The US State Department said it received the letter and was preparing a response.
Five years ago the United States stopped funding UNESCO, the UN cultural agency, after it granted the Palestinians full membership.