Israel rapped over settlement issue

Israel rapped over settlement issue


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he would not negotiate without a freeze of Jewish settlement

Israel has been sharply criticised after its refusal to halt settlement construction forced Washington to drop efforts to relaunch Mideast peace talks.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has insisted he would not negotiate without a freeze of Jewish settlement building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem – lands captured by Israel and sought by the Palestinians for their state.

He spoke after meeting in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.

“Without halt of settlements, there will be no talks,” Abbas said.

With the path to direct talks effectively blocked, it is not clear what the Obama administration will do next.

Israeli and Palestinian envoys were summoned to Washington for meetings with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton before the weekend.

Israel and the Palestinians had launched the latest round of peace talks on September 2 at a White House ceremony. But less than a month later, negotiations broke down after Israel refused to extend a 10-month-old freeze on West Bank housing starts that ended at the end of September.

In recent weeks, the US had tried to persuade Israel to extend a limited West Bank settlement freeze for 90 days, offering a series of security and diplomatic incentives. However, the negotiations over an extension broke down, and US officials announced this week they had abandoned that approach.

Washington did not cast blame. But other members of the so-called Quartet of Mid East mediators, which also includes the EU, the UN and Russia, sharply criticised Israel.

“I note with regret that Israel has not been in a position to accept an extension of the (settlement) moratorium, as requested by the US, the EU and the Quartet,” said Baroness Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief.

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