Netanyahu rejects calls for Israeli settlement freeze as peace talks precondition
The U.S. previously called on Israel to halt all settlement expansion during the peace talks. Tel Aviv failed to comply. (AFP/File)
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Israeli prime minister has expressed opposition to freezing settlement construction on the Palestinian land as a condition for the extension of talks between Tel Aviv and the Palestinian Authority.
Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that the suspension of settlement activities “would serve nothing.”
The comments come as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is mediating the talks between the two sides, asked the negotiators to agree on a framework for extending the negotiations beyond an April 29 deadline.
However, acting Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmoud Abbas said that prolonging the talks is possible only if Tel Aviv halts its illegal settlement expansion on the Palestinian land.
Negotiators representing the Palestinian Authority and Israel began the latest round of talks in July 2013. Since the resumption of the direct talks, Palestinians have objected to a number of issues, including the settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The last round of the talks broke down in 2010, when Tel Aviv refused to halt its settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territories.
On March 10, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics released data showing that Tel Aviv had begun work on more than 2,530 settlement units in 2013, compared to a figure of over 1,130 in 2012.
More than half a million Israelis live in over 120 illegal settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Jerusalem in 1967.
The United Nations and most countries regard the Israeli settlements as illegal because the territories were captured by Israel in a war in 1967 and are hence subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbid construction on the occupied lands.