Abbas alarmed over hike in Israeli settlements

Berlin, Oct 18, IRNA — The President of the Palestinian Authority (PA) Mahmoud Abbas here Friday voiced strong concern over the drastic rise of Israeli settlements in the first half of 2013.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, Abbas said that indeed the expansion of settlements in occupied West Bank and al-Qods had been accelerated in recent months.

He reiterated these settlements were illegal based on international law.

Abbas urged a settlement construction stop, saying the settlements were an obstacle in the peace talks.

He made clear the Palestinian side was committed to serious negotiations amid all the challenges, including the settlement construction.

Meanwhile, Merkel called on Israeli restraint in the settlement issue, saying it could be endangering the negotiation process.

Home starts in Jewish settlements surged by a drastic 70 percent in the first half of 2013, jeopardizing peace talks, an Israeli NGO and a Palestinian official said Thursday.

Anti-settlement group Peace Now said in a statement that between January and June construction started on 1,708 new homes in the occupied West Bank, including annexed East Jerusalem, compared with 995 in the first half of 2012.



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