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Updated: May 10, 2010 15:41 IST

Palestinians report first Israeli violation of talks to US

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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. File photo: AP.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. File photo: AP.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) reported to the United States on Monday what it termed Israel’s first violation of the newly launched indirect peace talks, a senior Palestinian official said.

Yasser Abed Rabbo said the construction of 14 housing units for Jewish settlers in an East Jerusalem neighbourhood, as reported by the Israeli Peace Now pressure group, violated the terms of the talks, which got underway on Sunday.

“This is the first violation and first breach of the terms to start the indirect negotiations,” said Mr. Abed Rabbo, the secretary of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, which on Saturday voted to start indirect negotiations with Israel.

“We will act immediately to stop this, because we will not agree that negotiations will be used as a cover for settlement activities,” he said, adding that the PA is “following this situation on the ground with the US.” A senior Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the 14 homes being built in the Ras el—Amud neighbourhood of EastJerusalem were being constructed through a private initiative, and that the government had no authority over it.

Jerusalem Mayor Nirt Barkat, meanwhile, vowed to continue “planning and construction throughout the city for all its residents.” Responding to a US State Department announcement that Israel has undertaken not to build in East Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo location for two years, Mr. Barkat said that “we expect the Israeli government will react to the public demand of both the Arab and Jewish sectors and enable the construction of housing for the young population that is leaving the city because of a shortage of affordable housing.” “We trust that the prime minister will not allow a freeze in Jerusalem, not in words and not in actions,” he said in a statement.

An Israeli decision in March to allow the construction of 1,600 new homes in Ramat Shlomo triggered a severe crisis between Jerusalem and Washington, and led to a delay in the start of the indirect talks.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said on Monday that Israel had explained in March that it would take years for the Ramat Shlomo planning decision to turn into actual construction on the ground.

Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East War, and incorporated it into new municipal boundaries, which included both West Jerusalem and land which was formally part of the West Bank.

Successive Israeli governments have declared East Jerusalem part of Israel’s undivided capital. But Palestinians want it as the capital of their future state.

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