Palestinians consider ICC if Israel pursues settlements

AFP , Tuesday 11 Dec 2012

Palestine to consider pursuing trial at International Criminal Court, as an attempt to pursue all peaceful methods over Israel's decision to build 3,000 new settler units

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday that Palestine could pursue Israel at the International Criminal Court if it pushes ahead with plans to build thousands of new settlement units in East Jerusalem.

Abbas told reporters in Ankara that such a move was unlikely and was only one of several options that would be considered.

"If Israel continues with this (settlement plan), we will respond using all methods, obviously peaceful, and including the court," he said at a press conference with Turkish President Abdullah Gul.

Abbas was responding to a question about whether Palestine, which acquired a non-member observer state status at the United Nations last month, would use its newly granted access at the ICC to pursue the Jewish state.

Israel criticised the historic UN vote as an obstacle to efforts to reach a peace accord, and the next day revealed plans to build 3,000 new units.

Abbas said plans to expand Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of their state, would be a "red line" not to be crossed.

Gul also "strongly condemned" the proposed Israeli settlements, which have already been swamped by international criticism, and urged Israel not to "play with fire."

With their newly acquired status, the Palestinians now have access to a range of UN agencies, as well as to the ICC, but Abbas repeatedly said he had no plans to immediately petition the tribunal "except in the case of Israeli aggression."

Israel has long feared that if the Palestinians acquired UN non-member observer state status, they could resort to the ICC for war crimes – particularly over settlements.

Turkey, hosting Abbas on his first foreign trip since the UN vote, has been a staunch advocate of the Palestinian cause.

Turkey's ties with Israel however have deteriorated, especially over the Gaza blockade and a deadly maritime assault in 2010 where nine Turks were killed as they tried to breach the blockade on an aid ship.

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