Abbas looks to Paris summit to halt settlement expansion

Abbas looks to Paris summit to halt settlement expansion
3 min read
27 December, 2016
Israel plans more settlements as Mahmoud Abbas looks to Paris summit to halt them.
Mahmoud Abbas hopes settlement expansion may slow down after the UN vote [Getty]
The Palestinian president said on Tuesday that he hopes the upcoming conference in France will set a timetable to end settlements, as Israel moves ahead with new housing unit construction in East Jerusalem, despite the recent UN Security Council resolution condemning construction there.

The developments came just days after the United States broke with past practice and allowed the UN Security Council to condemn Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a "flagrant violation" of international law.

Abbas' comments early Tuesday morning were his first public remarks since the UN vote.

"The decision lays the foundation for any future serious negotiation... and it paves the way for the international peace conference slated to be held in Paris next month and we hope this conference comes up with a mechanism and timetable to end the occupation," Abbas told a meeting of his Fatah party.

"The (resolution) proves that the world rejects the settlements, as they are illegal, in our occupied land including East Jerusalem."

On January 15, days before President Barack Obama leaves office, France is expected to host a Middle East conference where dozens of countries may endorse an international framework for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Netanyahu vehemently opposes such activity, saying it undermines the negotiating process.

Netanyahu has repeatedly called on Abbas to meet for direct talks without preconditions. Abbas has refused unless Israel ends settlement construction first.

The Palestinians claim the West Bank, along with East Jerusalem, home to holy sites sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians, as part of their future state.

Israel says settlements, along with other core issues like security, should be agreed upon in peace talks.

Despite the UN resolution condemning settlements, Jerusalem Municipality is set to approve thousands of new housing units in the eastern sector of the city this week.

The pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom reported the Jerusalem District Zoning Committee is convening on Wednesday to discuss approving fresh construction in that part of the city.

"We remain unfazed by the UN vote, or by any other entity that tries to dictate what we do in Jerusalem," Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Meir Turgeman, who heads the zoning committee, told the paper this week.

"I hope the Israeli government and the new US administration will support us, so we can make up for the lack (of construction) during the eight years of the Obama administration."

Netanyahu was outraged by the UN Security Council resolution and has declared a number of steps in response to the measure, which passed 14-0 with an American abstention.

Israel summoned ambassadors from council members, including the US, to protest. Netanyahu is recalling his nation's ambassadors to New Zealand and Senegal for consultations and cancelling a planned January visit to Israel by Senegal's foreign minister. He also ended Israeli aid programmes to the African country.