As Palestinians have rejected an Israeli proposal for a temporary freeze on settlement activity, Britain says the offer should revive the Middle East peace talks.
“Britain wants today’s announcement by Israel to become a step towards resuming meaningful negotiations to achieve this vision,” said Foreign Secretary David Miliband in a statement on Wednesday.
“Britain continues to call for a full settlement freeze in the West Bank and East Jerusalem,” Miliband added. “Negotiations are the only way for the Israelis and Palestinians to achieve a comprehensive, just, and secure peace.”
The statement was made after the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that his government will bring a 10-month halt to its housing projects in the occupied West Bank in order to resume peace talks with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu, however, emphasized that the “far-reaching and painful” move to freeze settlement work would not be implemented in East Jerusalem Al-Quds which is viewed by the regime as a separate issue to be discussed in a final status agreement with the Palestinians, according to Israeli daily Haaretz.
“We will not halt existing construction and we will continue to build synagogues, schools, kindergartens and public buildings essential for normal life in the settlements,” Netanyahu said.
The Palestinians rejected the 10-month freeze which is to be applied only to new housing projects, meaning about 3,000 units under construction can be finished.
They have demanded a complete freeze on Israeli settlement in the West Bank as a condition for returning to the peace talks with Israel.
Miliband had earlier criticized Israel’s decision for approving the construction of hundreds of new housing units in annexed East Jerusalem.
“Expanding settlements on occupied land in East Jerusalem makes that deal much harder. So this decision is wrong and we oppose it,” said a British Foreign Office spokeswoman.