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Al-Quds mayor denies settlement halt

29 April 2010 6:55

Israeli authorities dismiss recent media reports announcing a settlement freeze had been ordered in East Jerusalem (al-Quds).

The Israeli media reported earlier in the week a direct order from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against new construction in East al-Quds under US pressure for a settlement freeze on occupied Palestinian lands.

However, the Israeli mayor of al-Quds, Nir Barkat, issued an uncompromising message on the issue in a Washington visit, dashing hopes of any halt to the settlement expansion plans.

“There’s no freeze,” he said during his tour of the US Congress on Wednesday. “There’s a demand from Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem to build, and we’re not going to stop it. It’s illegal to stop it.”

He acknowledged a “slowdown” in construction works amid widespread condemnation from the international community which came as a result of Israel’s approval of plans for 1,600 new settlement units in East al-Quds in March.

Washington had a major share of the criticism as the Israeli Interior Ministry’s announcement came during a visit by US Vice President Joe Biden, who was in the region to help promote indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Republican congressmen, Barkat said East al-Quds construction has been paused out of respect for the US, adding that workers were now “back to business.”

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Committee plans to convene a meeting next week, its first since the start of the settlement row in March.

Israel has so far ignored calls by Palestinians and the US for a halt to settlement activities in the West Bank and, in particular, al-Quds, which it claims as its “eternal, indivisible” capital.

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