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Illegal settlements hindering talks

The United Nations secretary general has criticized Israel for its refusal to freeze settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and East al-Quds (Jerusalem), saying that it is hindering the Middle East talks.

On Friday, Ban Ki-moon told Tel Aviv to halt all settlement construction and said that time is running out to save the Middle East talks.

“Settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory are illegal under international law, contravene the Road Map obligations of Israel, undermine confidence, prejudge the outcome of the permanent status negotiations, and hamper efforts at bringing the parties back to the negotiating table,” AFP quoted him as saying.

He expressed great concern at the lack of progress as the Palestinians pressure the UN Security Council to condemn the settlements.

“We cannot afford to lose any further time,” Ban said.

Arab nations recently submitted a draft resolution demanding that the UN pressure Tel Aviv to freeze all settlement construction. Some 122 countries have co-sponsored the resolution. Notably absent from that list, however, are Western countries such as the United States, Britain, France, Germany, and Canada.

The United States traditionally vetoes resolutions against Israel.

Ban also criticized the recent demolition of the historic Shepherd Hotel in East al-Quds, the regular destruction of Palestinian houses, and evictions of Palestinian families. All of these “heightened tensions,” he said.

The Palestinians have refused to take part in US-brokered direct talks with Israel since late September when Israel refused to extend a partial moratorium on settlement construction.

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