Jerusalem, 8 Shafar 1434/21 December 2012 (WAFA/MINA) – Quartet representative Tony Blair Thursday criticized Israel’s settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territories saying it undermines prospects for a negotiated peace settlement.

     The Quartet on the Middle East, sometimes called the Diplomatic Quartet or Madrid Quartet or simply the Quartet, is a foursome of nations and international and supranational entities involved in mediating the peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Quartet are the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia. The group was established in Madrid in 2002, recalling Madrid Conference of 1991, as a result of the escalating conflict in the Middle East. Tony Blair is the Quartet’s current Special Envoy.

    “The problem is not only the building of such settlements itself but also that this is a moment when it is vital to re-start a proper negotiation and all such announcements do is to put new obstacles in the way of progress and undermine the prospects for a negotiated peace leading to a viable Palestinian state living side by side with a safe and secure Israel,” he said in a statement.

      Blair expressed support to statements the US State Department and the four European members of the UN Security Council have made regarding Israel’s settlements.

      The US and European statements strongly criticized Israeli plans to build thousands of new housing units in settlements in the occupied territories, including in East Jerusalem, particularly the controversial E1 project which they said will destroy all prospects to create a contiguous Palestinian state.

      “All parties should refrain from unilateral actions that harm efforts to achieve peace,” Blair concluded his statement.

UK condemns Israel

      The United Kingdom condemned Tuesday Israeli plans to build 1,500 new housing units in an illegal settlement built in occupied East Jerusalem, according to a statement by the British foreign office.

      It expressed extreme concern following reports that the West Jerusalem District Planning Board is considering giving the approval to a further 5000 housing units in East Jerusalem settlements this week.

      Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned the settlement expansion plans stressing that “Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.”

      He said the UK was “deeply disappointed by Israel persistence to commence plans to expand the illegal settlements despite of the international community repeatedly raising concerns.”

     Hague said the settlements undermine the foundations of a two state solution and trust between the parties.

     “This decision, which paves the way for the extension of settlements in East Jerusalem, constitutes a serious provocation and an obstacle to peace,” he said.

      Hague said that if the construction was to be implemented, it would make a negotiated two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, very difficult to achieve.

      The UK urged Israel to reverse its decision and take no further steps to expand or entrench settlement activities.    (T/R-009/R-006)


Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)

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