UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on Israel to renew its partial settlement moratorium on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.
“I urge Israel to restore settlement restraint, under its Roadmap obligations,” Ban said on Wednesday during a monthly news conference on global flash points, Ma’an news agency reported.
The call comes amid heightened tension between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that is expected to announce its decision regarding the continuation of direct talks with Tel Aviv following an Arab meeting on Thursday.
The UN chief further urged the Arab leaders meeting in the Libyan city of Sirte to keep doors open for negotiations and give their support to acting Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmoud Abbas.
“Negotiations should move forward intensively, focused on resolving core issues — not talks for the sake of talks,” he demanded.
Abbas joined the negotiating table with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu early in September in Washington upon an invitation by the US State Department, in the face of sharp opposition from Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Major Palestinian factions have repeatedly called on Abbas to quit the talks, citing fears that a US-backed Tel Aviv might win even more concessions.
The negotiations have been pushed on the verge of collapse following Israel’s insistence on expanding its settlements and its refusal to renew its 10-month settlement freeze despite Palestinian threats to walk out of the talks.
Meanwhile, US State Department spokesman Phillip Crowley indicated efforts to pressure the Arab League to continue to support the US-sponsored talks.
The Arab Peace Initiative Follow-up Committee has given its backing to the decision of the Ramallah-based Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to halt talks if settlement construction continues.