UK minister ‘deeply disappointed’ in settlements call

Published 22/05/2011 18:57

UK Minister of the Foreign Office Alistair Burt visits Hebron in January 2011.
[MaanImages/Mahmoud Elayan, HO]

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — UK foreign office minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt called on Israel Friday to “cease unhelpful and destabilising activity” of settlement construction, in the wake of a decision to build 1,500 new Jewish-only homes in occupied East Jerusalem.

“I am deeply disappointed with Israel’s announcement on 19 May to build up to 1500 settlement units in the East Jerusalem settlements of Har Homa and Pisgat Zeev,” the minister said in a statement.

Burt noted that the announcement for the continued construction “came on the same day as [US] President [Barack] Obama’s important speech on the Middle East, which set out a clear path towards peace between the Palestinians and Israelis.”

“Settlement activity is a recognised obstacle to this path. It is illegal under international law and should stop,” he said.

Following Burt’s condemnation, Israel’s watchdog group Peace Now announced that plans had been pushed through for 294 new homes in the West Bank settlement of Beitar Ilit.

The Israeli announcements were peppered with condemnations from officials in Europe and North America.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Washington for a six-day visit, where he responded to demands from Obama to engage in peace talks based on the 1967 borders by saying the internationally accepted idea was out of the question.

A return to peace talks would require Israel to halt settlement activities, a position Palestinian negotiators took in 2009, saying the construction of Jewish-only housing on land that would be a Palestinian state indicated a lack of seriousness on Israel’s behalf.

In a January interview with Ma’an, Burt said about a Palestinian move to take the issue of statehood to the UN that the UK would “consider any draft resolution carefully,” the policy of the government remained a return to direct negotiations.

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