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Middle East

Al-Quds panel urges action on settlements

The call comes amid heightened concerns settlements could undermine US-brokered peace talks that resumed in July.

Last updated: 19 Jan 2014 14:59
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Israel announced plans to set up new settlements in part of Jerusalem which Palestine wants as its capital [Reuters]

Muslim countries have called on the international community to exert pressure on Israel to stop building Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, in response to Israel's latest plans to set up more settler homes.

The Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Committee made the call on Saturday, at the end of talks in Morocco, in fear that the construction wave would weigh on US-brokered peace talks.

The committee was founded by the pan-Muslim Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in 1975 to resist the confiscation of Palestinian land and assets in Jerusalem.

Chairman King Mohamed VI of Morocco opened the meeting on Friday by calling for "a strong mobilisation of our own means and resources... to defend the Holy City."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas later claimed Israel was using the peace talks as a "cover" to expand settlements in the West Bank.

Peace talks between rivalry sides resumed in July, following a three-year pause resulting from settlement construction.

"The international community must... put pressure on Israel to stop the illegal and provocative settlement construction," a statement said at the end of the two-day meeting in Marrakesh.

That "will create a favourable context for the pursuit of peace negotiations" between Israel and the Palestinians, and for relations between Israel, its Arab neighbours and the Muslim world, the statement added.

Controversial settlements

Concerns over settlement construction returned to the fore last week when Israel announced plans to build 1,800 new settler homes in the West Bank, including annexed Arab East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of their future state.

The pan-Muslim Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) panel's announcement came days after the latest peace mission by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who criticised the settlements as "illegitimate" and "unhelpful."

The controversial decision prompted Britain, Italy, France and Spain to summon Israeli ambassadors in protest, with Tel Aviv calling in European ambassadors on Friday in a tit-for-tat move.

After Israel unveiled the plans, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon launched a tirade against Kerry for his "obsession" with brokering a framework peace deal by April, sparking a diplomatic spat with Washington.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the European Union of a "hypocritical" attitude towards the peace process, saying it should be more concerned by Palestinian militancy than Israeli housing construction.

The international community considers all settlements built on land seized by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War to be illegal.

Meanwhile the financial arm of the Committee, Bayt Mal al-Qods, called on the 57 members of the OIC to provide financial contributions to fund health, education and social projects in the Holy City.

The financial commission carried out 130 projects in Jerusalem between 2008-2012 worth $30m in the health, housing, education and other sectors.

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