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Israel settlement expansion counterproductive to peace: Merkel

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and German Chancellor Angela Merkel give a press conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, April 19, 2016. © AFP

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has slammed Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories as “counterproductive” to the so-called two-state solution.

In a joint press conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Berlin on Tuesday, Merkel also expressed concerns over the stalemate in the Middle East negotiations. 

“I am critical of the settlement policy,” Merkel said, adding she had conveyed her concern to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I have expressed my mind critically to the Israeli Prime Minister many times that ... these settlement activities are counterproductive,” she said.

Abbas, for his part, stressed that Israel’s “housing development is the biggest problem for the attainment of freedom.”

He also met with German President Joachim Gauck and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier as part of his international tour to secure support for a UN vote to officially condemn the Israeli settlement policy.

The picture taken on April 14, 2016 shows a partial view of the Israeli settlement of Givat Zeev near the West Bank city of Ramallah. © AFP

Resolution freeze? 

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz, citing an unnamed senior Palestinian figure, said the Palestinian Authority was under pressure from France and other countries to freeze its effort.

The paper claimed that the Palestinian Authority was leaning toward freezing its effort to secure a United Nations Security Council draft resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Al-Quds (Jerusalem). 

The French government was pressing the authority to suspend the effort on the grounds that it would undermine French attempts to convene an international peace conference this summer, according to senior Israeli and Palestinian officials.

On Monday, UN chief  Ban Ki-moon warned that the two-state solution “seems more distant than it has for many decades.”

He cited continuing tensions in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israel’s illegal settlement activities and its demolitions of Palestinian homes.

Over half a million Israelis live in more than 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank including East al-Quds (Jerusalem).

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of their future independent state, with East al-Quds (Jerusalem) as its capital. 

All Israeli settlements are illegal under the international law. Tel Aviv has defied calls to stop the settlement expansions in the occupied Palestinian territories.

In an unusually direct criticism of the Israeli regime, US Vice President Joe Biden said on Monday that he felt "overwhelming frustration" over Tel Aviv's continued settlements and land seizures.

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