Ban Ki-moon: Israel settlements "cause for very grave concern"
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday warned the international community of the "increasingly dangerous" tensions mounting between Israel and Palestine, and the ramifications this could have on the peace talks.
Both the Palestinian and Israeli negotiators are participating in the Washington-brokered peace talks but Ban said: "I am alarmed by the increasingly dangerous situation on the ground. There has been an escalation of violence and incitement," Agence France Presse (AFP) reported.
The U.N. chief also critcized Israel's continuation of its settlement activities, calling its recent surge of settlements in the occupied territories - especially in the West Bank - as a "cause for very grave concern" in a message release to coincide with the international day of solidarity with the Palestinian people, according to AFP.
"Announcements of thousands of new housing units cannot be reconciled with the goal of a two-state solution and risk the collapse of negotiations," the U.N. official said, calling for the immediate end to all new settlements being built in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Ban also spoke out against the Gaza-initiated rocket attacks and the building of tunnels from the besieged and blockaded Palestinian territory into Israel, according to AFP.
Speaking to the Palestinians, the U.N. official said that they must overcome the "divisions" between President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party and Hamas, the rulers of Gaza, to boost the progress of the flailing peace talks.
"All parties must act in a responsible way and refrain from actions that undermine the prospects for successful negotiations," the U.N. chief said, AFP reported.
"We cannot afford to lose the current momentum of opportunity," Ban said.
Ban's message was released by the United Nations General Assembly in recognition of the first anniversary of the Palestinians being considered an observer state by the international body.