Netanyahu says Israel won't freeze settlements in occupied Palestine

Netanyahu said Israel would not freeze all building in West Bank settlements as demanded by Washington.

Netanyahu says Israel won't freeze settlements in occupied Palestine

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday Israel would not freeze all building in West Bank settlements as demanded by Washington.

Israeli officials have said work would continue on 2,500 settler homes being built in the occupied territory, and Netanyahu reaffirmed the position in remarks to a legislative panel, before talks on Tuesday with a U.S. envoy.

"They (Americans) asked us for a complete freeze and we told them that we will not do this," Netanyahu was quoted as saying by a parliamentary official, who briefed reporters on his comments to the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee.

"I told the Americans we would consider reducing the scope of construction," the Israeli leader said, according to the official.

"But there has to be a balance between the desire to make progress in political negotiations and the need to allow inhabitants of Judea and Samaria to continue to lead normal lives," Netanyahu said, referring to the occupied West Bank.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, also due to meet U.S. presidential envoy George Mitchell on Tuesday, has said he would not return to peace negotiations with Israel until it froze settlement activity in line with a 2003 peace "road map"

Talks have been suspended since December.

Mitchell, who arrived in Israel on Saturday, has been trying to "persuade" Israel freeze settlement construction in the occupied West Bank in return of Arab concession on recognation Israel while still occupying Palestinian territories.

However, Netanyahu has said the building of some 2,500 buildings in the occupied West Bank would continue and that the city of Jerusalem would not be included in any settlement deal. World Court ruled Jewish settlements were illegal on occupied Palestinian territories according to international law.

The United States and European Union regard them as obstacles to peace.

Palestinians, who want their own state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, see the settlements as a land grab as an occupier "state".

Last week, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak drew a U.S. rebuke by approving 455 building permits in settlements in the West Bank, land Israel captured in a 1967 war and which Palestinians want as part of a future state.

Some 500,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and in Arab East Jerusalem, also captured by Israel in the 1967 war, alongside some three million Palestinians. The World Court considers the settlements illegal and Palestinians say the enclaves could deny them a viable state.

Reuters
Last Mod: 14 Eylül 2009, 17:46
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