Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed deep concern after reports emerged today that the Israeli Government has approved the construction of another 40 houses and a farm in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The reports indicate that the construction has been approved near the settlement of Efrat, close to the Palestinian town of Bethlehem in the West Bank, according to a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson.
“The Secretary-General calls again on the Government of Israel to freeze all settlement activity,” the statement noted. “Such activity is contrary to international law and the Roadmap, and prejudices final status negotiations.
“These actions by the Government of Israel come at a critical juncture when the Quartet continues efforts to facilitate the resumption of direct negotiations between the parties,” the statement added, referring to the diplomatic grouping that brings together the United Nations, the European Union, Russia and the United States in search of a common solution to the long-running Middle East conflict.
“For this to succeed, the parties must refrain from provocative actions and help create a positive environment for negotiations.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also voiced concern about Israeli settlements during a closed-door briefing to Security Council members this afternoon at UN Headquarters in New York.
Ms. Pillay told reporters later that she also discussed the “indiscriminate firing” of weapons into the Gaza Strip and rockets into Israel.
She said the issue of the settlements and the ongoing blockade of Gaza by Israel must be addressed to alleviate the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.