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Middle East

Germany urges Israel on settlement policy

Chancellor Angela Merkel calls for restraint after sharp rise in illegal construction on occupied Palestinian land.

Last Modified: 18 Oct 2013 17:13
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Israeli settlement construction on Palestinian land rose by 70 percent year-on-year in the first half of 2013 [Reuters]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Israel to show "restraint" in the building of Israeli settlements, after holding talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

"We call on Israel to show restraint in the matter of settlement building," Merkel told a joint press conference with Abbas in Berlin on Friday.

Construction of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land has risen by 70 percent year-on-year in the first half of 2013, anti-settlement group Peace Now said on Thursday.

Settlement building in the territories occupied by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War is considered illegal under international law, and the issue remains one of the most divisive in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Terming them "illegal", Abbas said Israeli settlement construction in the occupied territories had "in fact, increased enormously".

"We ask the Israeli government to stop this activity," he told reporters.

Saeb Erakat, a senior Palestinian negotiator, told the AFP news agency on Thursday that the settlement building was "destroying the peace process", which was relaunched with US support in July.

Merkel reiterated Germany's support for the peace talks and a two-state solution, while Abbas thanked Germany for its economic support and its role in the peace process.

"We are serious in our efforts to conduct the negotiations," he said, adding an appeal directed at the Israeli government: "We should seize this historic chance."

Merkel also stressed that Germany's foreign policy would continue in the same vein as previously despite the likely formation of a left-right grand coalition, currently under negotiation between her conservatives and the Social Democrats after September 22 elections.

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