Middle East
Israel condemned at UN over settlements
Regional groups on UN Security Council censure Israel over settlement activities in occupied Palestinian territories.
Last Modified: 22 Dec 2011 04:31

Diplomats at the UN Security Council have voiced frustration over the lack of progress towards restarting Israel-Palestine negotiations and called for an immediate halt to Israeli settlement activity in the illegally occupied Palestinian territories.

In what Russia called a "historic step", representatives of all regional groups seated on the council condemned Israeli settlements and settler violence, naming them as a principal obstacle to the resumption of talks.

"Israel's continuing announcements to accelerate the construction of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem, sends a devastating message," Mark Lyall Grant, the UK ambassador, said early on Wednesday, speaking on behalf the council's four European Union members, Britain, France, Germany and Portugal.

"With this support we are inspired and we are hopeful, because the world is with us. The entire community of nations is with us, they are not abandoning us"

- Riyad Mansour,
Palestinian ambassador to the UN

"All settlement activity, including in East Jerusalem, must cease immediately."

Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said settlement activity put into question the viability of a two-state solution.

"If you look at the map, you start wondering how even theoretically two states can be set up in Gaza and West Bank given this new reality," Churkin said.

The Palestinians' application for UN membership, which the US has vowed to veto, has made little headway in the three months since it was delivered to the world body by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president.

The Security Council took nearly two months to issue a report that said there was a lack of consensus, while the bid has not yet been tabled for a vote.

Churkin called for Security Council action on the issue, but said no consensus was possible on Palestinian UN membership because of objections from the US.

"[The US] believes that somehow things will sort of settle themselves somehow miraculously on their own," Churkin said.

Direct talks between the Palestinians and Israel broke down 15 months ago over the issue of settlements.

Last February, the US vetoed a resolution that would have condemned them as "illegal" and demanded a halt to construction. The veto was the first wielded by US President Barack Obama's administration at the UN.

'Illegitimate' settlements

The US believes settlements are "illegitimate" but does not go so far as call them illegal, and continues to push the issue of resolving Palestinian statehood, including settlements, out of the Security Council chamber.

"We believe Security Council action on final status issues would only harden the positions of both sides and make the resumption of negotiations more difficult," the US deputy spokesperson at the UN said.

In New York, Israeli diplomats to the UN attributed the failure of negotiations to the Palestinians.

"The main obstacle to peace, has been, and remains, the Palestinians' claim to the so-called right of return and its refusal to recognise Israel as a Jewish state," a written statement from the Israeli Mission said.

But outside of the Security Council, individual countries continued to show widespread support for a sovereign Palestine.

On Monday, 182 countries approved a non-binding UN General Assembly resolution on the "right of the Palestinian people to self-determination." The US and Israel voted against the resolution.

On Thursday, Iceland became the latest state to bilaterally recognise Palestine based on its 1967 borders. Thailand may be next, according to the Palestinian Ambassador, Riyad Mansour, bringing the total to 132.

"With this support we are inspired and we are hopeful, because the world is with us. The entire community of nations is with us, they are not abandoning us," Mansour said.

Al Jazeera
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