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Palestinian ambassador: Israel’s settlement activity to upset peace process

November 27, 2013, 18:49 UTC+3 MOSCOW
Israel’s policy to build more and more new settlements on the occupied Palestinian territories is the most vivid proof of Israel’s superficial attitude towards the ongoing talks, diplomat says
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© AP/Nasser Nasser

MOSCOW, November 27, 18:01 /ITAR-TASS/. Israel’s settlement activity will inevitably upset the peace process in the Middle East, Palestinian Ambassador to Russia Fayed Mustafa said.

“Naturally, Israel’s policy to build more and more new settlements on the occupied Palestinian territories is the most vivid proof of Israel’s superficial attitude towards the ongoing talks between Palestine and Israel,” the ambassador told ITAR-TASS on Wednesday, November 27. “What Israel does on a daily basis by seizing our land, destroying our homes, building new settlements and enlarging the existing ones will inevitably kill the peace process despite the international community’s hopes for its success.”

Mustafa noted that such actions on the part of Israel sent daily messages to the world community that “Israel respects neither its opinion nor international law, according to which the Israeli settlements on the Palestinian land are unlawful.”

“We think the time has come for the international community to take new steps against Israel’s settlement activity by boycotting them and their products rather than just condemn them,” the diplomat said.

Direct Palestinian-Israeli talks resumed in late July after an almost three-year break. The sides have held at least 16 meetings since then but with no progress on any of the issues discussed.

Palestinian Liberation Organisation Secretary-General Yasser Abed Rabbo, the closest aide to Mahmoud Abbas, said that “the main factor that upsets progress at the talks is Israel’s refusal to stop settlement activities [in the West Bank and East Jerusalem]” and stressed that further construction of settlements “ruins the slightest chance for a peace agreement.”

Abdou Salam Diallo, Committee Chairman, recalled Israel’s announcement to build 1,000 new homes in West Bank settlements; criticism by the Chairman of the Special Committee on Israeli Practices of Israel’s continued detention of more than 5,000 Palestinian prisoners; and reports by a non-governmental organisation that, so far this year, 1,790 Palestinians had been arrested and 16 shot dead by the Israeli military.

The Palestinian side warned that further settlement activities on the part of Israel could cause the peace process to collapse. “The expansion of settlements runs counter to the American administration’s promises and can lead to a collapse of the negotiations,” Rabbo said.

The European Union condemned Israel’s plans to build new settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

“The EU has repeatedly stated that settlements are illegal under international law and that bold and decisive leadership is needed for the current peace negotiations to succeed,” Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said in early November.

“The EU deplores the latest settlement announcement and calls on the Israeli government to reverse its decision. Any actions that could hamper or undermine the on-going negotiations must be avoided,” Ashton said.

Prior to that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also reiterated his country’s positions that Israeli settlements were “illegitimate.”

“Let me emphasise at this point the position of the United States of America on the settlements is that we consider now and have always considered the settlements to be illegitimate… The United States has said that they believe the settlements are not helpful and are illegitimate,” he said.

On November 3, the Israeli authorities announced tenders for 1,859 settlement units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israel plans to build 3,700 new houses there.

Palestinian warned that further settlement activities on the part of Israel could cause the peace process to collapse. “The expansion of settlements runs counter to the American administration’s promises and can lead to a collapse of the negotiations,” PLO leader Yasser Abed Rabbo said.

In August, Israel’s Interior Ministry approved the construction of 890 new flats in Gilo, a large residential area in south-western East Jerusalem with a population of 40,000, mostly Jewish, located beyond the 1949 Green Line. Prior to that, Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel had authorized the construction of 394 houses in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and 793 flats in East Jerusalem, including 400 in Gilo.

Direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians got stalled in September 2010, after Israel refused to extend its freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Addressing the Security Council in April, the U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, urged the international community to maintain its commitment to advancing the prospects for resuming direct talks between the two sides.

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