Last updated: 10 April, 2012

Palestinians seek UN condemnation of settlements

The Palestinians have sent a letter to the United Nations Security Council seeking condemnation of Israeli settlement activity, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday.

Riyad al-Malki said the Palestinian envoy to the UN, Riyad Mansour, had submitted letters to the council and UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon on Monday, ahead of a meeting of the peacemaking Quartet in Washington on Wednesday.

“The letters called on the international community, and particularly the Security Council, to condemn settlement activity — which is illegal — and other illegal Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory,” Malki told AFP.

The message also called for “urgent measures to put pressure on the occupying power, which is Israel, to compel it to stop these actions and policies immediately,” he said.

The text of the letter warns that Israel’s “illegal and destructive plans not only inflame tensions but further underscore the dubious nature of the occupying power’s claims of readiness to negotiate a peace settlement.”

It said settlement was part of a campaign “being deliberately waged in an attempt to seize more Palestinian land and entrench (Israel’s) control over the Palestinian territory.”

Malki said the delivery of the message was carefully timed.

“The goal of these messages at this time in particular is to keep the issue of settlements at the top of the priorities of the Security Council and General Assembly,” Maliki added.

“These messages anticipate the Quartet meeting being held tomorrow, which will discuss the stalled peace process in the region,” he said.

He said the Palestinians would seek a Quartet statement “that clearly says that the continuation of settlements is the main obstacle to the revival of real and serious negotiations.”

Senior representatives of the Quartet’s members — the European Union, Russia, United States and United Nations — are expected to meet in Washington to discuss the stalled Middle East peace process.

Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been on hold since late September 2010, when they ground to a halt over the issue of settlement construction.

Israel says it wants to return to talks without preconditions, but the Palestinians insist on a settlement freeze and clear parameters for discussions of future borders.

The Quartet sponsored several rounds of “exploratory” meetings between Israeli and Palestinian envoys earlier this year, but the talks ended without a path back to direct negotiations.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has written to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laying out Palestinian terms for a return to negotiations.

The letter is set to be handed to Netanyahu on April 17 by a delegation including Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad, negotiator Saeb Erakat and senior Palestine Liberation Organisation official Yasser Abed Rabbo.

Israeli officials have indicated that Netanyahu will respond to the letter with his own message.