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US abandons demand for Israeli settlement freeze

The United States says it will no longer attempt to convince Israel to ban construction in the West Bank.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
Image: Thanassis Stavrakis/AP/Press Association Images

THE UNITED STATES has admitted defeat in its attempts to secure a settlement freeze as part of ongoing peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

America is now abandoning its attempt to secure a ban on construction, leading the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to declare that the peace talks are in crisis. The talks resumed on 2 September but quickly ran into trouble when an Israeli settlement freeze expired and was not renewed.

US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley explained the reason behind the US decision:

We have been pursuing a moratorium as a means to create conditions for a return to meaningful and sustained negotiations. After a considerable effort, we have concluded that this does not create a firm basis to work towards our shared goal of a framework agreement.

The US has said that it would now begin exploring different ways to secure peace in the region.

A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Nir Hefetz,  said that a ban on settlement construction was not the way to acheive peace:

We said from the outset that settlements were not the root of the conflict and that it was only a Palestinian excuse for refusing to talk.

However, Maen Rashid Areikat, the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s chief representative to the US, told the BBC’s World Today programme that Israel should act in accordance with international law:

We will not tolerate the continuation of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian occupied territories.

Israel has occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the Six-Day War in 1967; since then almost 500,000 Jewish settlers have constructed homes in the area. These settlements are considered illegal under international law but Israel does not accept this.

About 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank.

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