Israel to 'halt West Bank colonies'

Israeli media says move could come ahead of a US-sponsored peace summit.

    Israel is being urged to freeze West Bank settlements ahead of the Annapolis conference [GALLO/Getty]

    The planned freeze is thought to be a tactical one aimed at persuading key Arab states - such as Saudi Arabia - to attend the Annapolis conference due before the end of this year.
     
    An Israeli spokesperson refused to comment.
     
    David Chater, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Jerusalem, however, said the media reports on the expected freeze were just speculation.
     
    "The Israelis are trying to spin it as some kind of concession.

    It is no concession, this is a vital part and an obligation, a promise in the first stage of the road map.

    "

     
    He pointed out that a report by the group Peace Now, released last week, says rates of expansion in the settlement were three times higher than the growth of Israel as a whole.

     

    This cannot be accounted for by natural growth in the population.

     

    Israel is also planning to release 400 Palestinian prisoners ahead of the conference. This falls far short of the release of 2,000 prisoners sought by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.

    Both Israeli and Palestinian leaders have said they hoped the peace summit would help to bring about a peaceful resolution to their long-standing conflict.
     
    The Annapolis conference aims to jump-start Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and Agencies


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