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UN chief asks Israel to reverse West Bank land seizure

By Agencies - Mar 17,2016 - Last updated at Mar 17,2016

A sign that reads ‘the civil administration of the West Bank in charge of the government properties, state land, no trespassing,’ is seen on Wednesday at the perimeters of the 234 hectares that were declared government land by the Israeli army last Thursday, near the West Bank city Jericho (AP photo)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Israel on Tuesday to reverse its confiscation of land in the Palestinian West Bank, describing the decision as "an impediment to the two-state solution" in the Middle East, Agence France-Presse reported.

The appeal came after Israel declared 234 hectares of West Bank territory to be state land, fuelling concerns of a new spike in tensions with the Palestinians.

"Such actions appear to point towards an increase in settlement activities and demonstrate that Israel is continuing to push forward in the consolidation of its control of the West Bank," said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

"Settlements are illegal under international law and the secretary-general urges the government of Israel to halt and reverse such actions in the interest of a just and comprehensive peace and a just final status agreement," he said.

The United Nations has repeatedly called on Israel to halt the expansion of Jewish settlements, which it views as an attempt to scuttle plans for a future Palestinian state by absorbing land that would be part of the new country.

Earlier this month, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, Robert Piper, said Israel was razing Palestinian homes at an "alarming" rate in the West Bank.

Peace Now, an organisation that monitors settlements, said the order to seize the land was signed on March 10 as US Vice President Joe Biden wrapped up a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Peace Now said the land could help link up and potentially expand local Jewish settlements.

"This declaration is a de-facto confiscation of Palestinian lands for the purpose of settlement," it said in a statement.

"Instead of trying to calm the situation, the government is adding fuel to the fire."

 

 

Meanwhile, Germany and France on Wednesday criticised Israel’s confiscation of land, saying the move violated international law and contradicted a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Reuters reported.

Israeli Army Radio said on Tuesday the land was near the Dead Sea and the Palestinian city of Jericho.

Israel says it intends to keep large settlement blocs in any future peace agreement with the Palestinians. Palestinians, who seek to establish a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, fear Israeli settlement expansion will deny them a viable country.

“This decision sends a wrong signal at the wrong time,” the German Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“Especially in the current tense situation, both parties in the Middle East conflict are called on to take steps for a de-escalation and to find ways that lead to an urgently needed resumption of peace negotiations,” it said.

In Paris, Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said France was “extremely concerned” by the Israeli decision.

“Settlements constitute a violation of international law and contradict commitments made by Israeli authorities in favour of a two-state solution,” the spokesman said.

Palestinians have cited Israeli settlement activity as one of the factors behind the collapse of US-brokered peace talks in 2014, and a surge of violence over the past five months has dimmed hopes negotiations could be revived any time soon.

Germany, which has forged close relations with Israel in the decades since the Holocaust, has repeatedly criticised Israel for its settlement plans.

“All people in Israel and Palestine have a right to live in peace and security. Only a clear political perspective for a sustainable two-state solution can guarantee this in the long term,” the ministry said.

Paris is lobbying for an international peace conference before May that would outline incentives and give guarantees for Israelis and Palestinians to resume face-to-face talks before August and try to end the decades-long conflict.

 

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat on Tuesday called on the international community to press Israel to stop land confiscations. Most countries view Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as illegal and an obstacle to peace.

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