Quartet calls for Israeli settlement freeze
The Middle East Quartet on Friday called on Israel to freeze the construction of Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories and dismantle those built since 2001. The group also condemned Thursday’s rocket attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip, which sparked Israeli bombing raids overnight.
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There must be a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians within 24 months, the Quartet - which is made up of the UN, the US, Russia and the European union - said at a meeting in Moscow.
The Palestinians have very little other than the threat of some kind of action, whether violent or non violent, but Israel seems to be in control
Q&A - Jerusalem correspondent Peretz Kidron
It must end "the occupation which began in 1967 and result in the emergence of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbours," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said after the meeting.
Israel must freeze settlements and end demolitions and evictions in East Jerusalem, Ban said, adding that “unilateral actions … will not be recognised by the international community”.
The Palestinian Authority welcomed the statement.
"The Americans and other representatives of the world community have spoken words of condemnation, but there’s no hint of any consequences," said correspondent Peretz Kidron.
"There’s a very interesting contrast, in the past when the Americans really wanted to assert pressure they made it very clear that if Israel didn’t buckle under, there would be serious consequences," the Jerusalem correspondent added.
Israel’s announcement of settlement plans in East Jerusalem during a visit by US
Vice-President Joe Biden has poisoned relations with Washington. But in Moscow Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that the two countries have a “strong and enduring” relationship, while backing the settlement freeze call.
Clinton talked to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone late Thursday.
“They discussed specific actions that might be taken to improve the atmosphere for progress towards peace,” her spokesperson Philip Crowley said.
Netanyahu is due to give a speech to the pro-Israel American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington next week.
Israeli jets bombed six targets in the Gaza Strip overnight, after a Thai worker on a kibbutz was killed by a rocket attack from the territory. Officials say the targets were “terror sites”, including a weapons manufacturing facility and two tunnels into Israel.
Israeli police are out in force in Jerusalem on Friday, fearing the continuation of Palestinian protests near the Al Aqsa mosque.
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