Olmert ally denounces outposts

Israeli deputy PM says West Bank outposts are hurting Israeli-US relations.

    Ramon said decisions regarding the outposts would be made within the next few weeks [AFP]

    "These decisions are difficult, but we will have to dismantle these outposts, at least some of them, because it troubles our relations with the United States."
     
    Ramon, a close ally of Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, added that damaged relations between the two countries would impact on Israeli national security.
     
    According to the 2003 internationally drafted roadmap phase, which is pivotal to the US- brokered peace process, Israel is required to freeze all settlement activity, illegal under under international law, and dismantle some of its more than 100 outposts established after March 2001.
     
    The Palestinians have repeatedly called for an end to settlement activity in both the occupied West Bank and occupied east Jerusalem.
     
    Pressure sought
     
    Ahmed Qorei, a senior negotiator, called for greater international pressure on Israel.
     
    "America and the Quartet must order Israel to stop all settlement activities," he said, referring to the Middle East diplomatic foursome comprised of the United States, European Union, United Nations, and Russia.
     
    "If Israel continues to build and expand settlements, we will consider that it wants to destroy the peace process," he told reporters in Ramallah.
     
    Last week Israel drew international criticism after it unveiled new housing plans to extend settlements in the West Bank.
     
    The move, which came as Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, visited the region, was described as "unhelpful" by a US state department spokesman.
     
    Ramon also said on Saturday that both Olmert and Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, have been negotiating with settler leaders in recent months in order to secure voluntary withdrawal from some of the settlements.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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