UN chief urges Israeli settlement freeze

AFP, Monday 17 Jan 2011

UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Monday urged Israel to "freeze" settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem

"I continue to call on Israel to lift the unacceptable conditions in Gaza and to freeze settlement activities anywhere in the occupied Palestinian territories, including east Jerusalem," Ban told a news conference in Abu Dhabi.

Ban's call comes a day after Israeli media the Jerusalem municipal council said Israel is to approve 1,400 new settler homes in East Jerusalem, defying pressure to halt settlement building that has stalled peace talks with the Palestinians.

Israel has annexed East Jerusalem and claims it as part of its capital, while Palestinians want the area as the capital of their future state.

US-brokered peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have deadlocked over the issue of illegal Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians walked out of direct peace talks three weeks after they started in September when Israel baulked at extending a 10-month partial freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank.

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