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UN Chief: All Israeli settlements in al-Quds illegal

The UN chief says “all” Israeli settlement building in East Jerusalem al-Quds is illegal, as Washington and Tel Aviv apparent row over plans to build more units.

“All settlement activity is illegal, but inserting settlers into Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem (al-Quds) is particularly troubling,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council in New York, quoted by The New York Times.

“This leads to tensions and undermines prospects for addressing the final status of Jerusalem (al-Quds),” he said.

Ban’s comments came as US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister continued their talks for a second day in Washington amid an unusual news blackout.

“There are areas that they discussed last night, some of which they agree and some of which they disagree… The conversation was honest and straightforward,” the White House press secretary told reporters.

“The president has asked the prime minister for certain things to build confidence,” Robert Gibbs said, refusing to give any further details.

The Palestinian side has maintained that Israel must fully withdraw from the territories if it is serious about peace.

In a statement released on Wednesday, chief negotiator of the Palestinian authority Saeb Erekat said that with the new settlements Israel was “digging itself into a hole that it must climb out of, if it is serious about peace.”

Earlier this month, during US Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s trip to Israel, Tel Aviv announced that it would soon initiate the construction of 1600 units in the Ramat Shlomo housing development in East al-Quds.

While the prime minister was in Washington for talks with Obama, the Israeli website, Ynet, also announced that another East al-Quds building project was underway, this time 20 units in the Palestinian populated neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

Israel plans to build the units on the site of Shepherd Hotel, the former home of the late Islamic law scholar Haj Amin Husseini.

Contrary to UN’s position, Netanyahu claims that Israel has the right to continue building in al-Quds.

Latest news reports suggest that Obama has withdrawn from the position of asking Israel to stop settlement construction. According to a Washington Post article on Thursday, Obama has asked Netanyahu to ensure that housing projects in East al-Quds “do not spoil the atmosphere for talks.”

Netanyahu told reporters that he was hopeful of a compromise over the al-Quds settlement issue after his visit to Washington.

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