Syria: Settlements harm peace hopes

Syria's vice-president has accused Israel of deliberately undermining Middle East peace initiatives after it announced it was stepping up Jewish settlements in the occupied Golan Heights.

    Israel is to build nine new settlements on Golan Heights

    "Aborting any peace initiative in the region is part of Israeli policy," Abd al-Halim Khaddam told reporters.

    "This measure and the assassination of Palestinian leaders in the occupied territories shows that Israel remains hostile to peace and that it is pressing ahead with the Zionist project against the interests and future of the Arab nation," he said after talks with a delegation of Iraqi tribal leaders.
      
    On Wednesday, the head of an Israeli cross-ministerial commission said the panel had decided to increase by half the Jewish population of the Golan Heights, which was seized from Syria in the 1967 Middle East War and unilaterally annexed in 1981.

    He said the commission had approved a 60-million-dollar plan that would include the creation of nine new settlements on the Golan and speed up construction of 900 homes.

    The plan, which would increase the Jewish population of the strategic territory from 10,500 to around 15,000 over three years, put paid to peace overtures made by Syrian President Bashar al-Asad early last month.
     
    An Israeli assassination attempt against a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip on Christmas Day also set back Egyptian-sponsored efforts to broker a truce by Palestinian resistance groups as a spur to negotiations on an internationally-drafted peace roadmap.

    SOURCE: AFP


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