US Denies Deal with Israel to Freeze Jewish Settlements
The United States denied on Wednesday an Israeli newspaper report that it had agreed to a formula for Israel to partially freeze construction in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, reported Reuters.
The Israeli Haaretz newspaper said that “Americans have managed to work out a settlement freeze formula with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, stating that construction beyond current built-up areas will be frozen.”
Haaretz said the proposals it outlined were intended to "meet the needs" of Jewish settlers.
But a US embassy spokesman in Tel Aviv told Reuters that there had been no such agreement between the Israel and the United States, which is showing signs of taking on a bigger role in efforts to bring peace to the Middle East.
Disagreement between Israel and the Palestinians over settlements has long been a major obstacle to peace.
Meanwhile, Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Palestinians would agree to nothing less then a complete halt to construction in the settlements, which are widely regarded as illegal under international law.
"The United States should act hard to compel Israel to implement signed agreements and to stop settlements completely," Erekat told Reuters.
A fact-finding committee led by former US Senator George Mitchell into eight months of Israeli-Palestinian violence calls for a freeze on construction at settlements as a confidence-building measure – Albawaba.com