New Syria peace talks could resume in late August: UN

UNITED NATIONS, July 5 (APP): The United Nations has condemned Israel for demolishing Palestinians’ homes and advancing plans to build new houses for Israeli settlers, amid the prospect of the two-state solution to the Middle East conflict already “slipping away”.

“The secretary-general (Ban Ki-moon) strongly criticizes the decision by Israeli authorities to advance plans to build some 560 housing units in the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim, as well as the advancement of plans to build 240 housing units in a number of settlements in occupied East Jerusalem,” a statement issued by Ban’s spokesman said Monday.

“This raises legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term intentions, which are compounded by continuing statements of some Israeli ministers calling for the annexation of the West Bank,” the statement said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has allowed the expansion of a West Bank settlement in the wake of the stabbing death of a 13-year-old Israeli-American girl, reports said on Sunday.

The United Nations and most countries regard the Israeli settlements as illegal because the territories they are built on were captured by Israel in a war in 1967 and are hence subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbid construction on occupied lands.

The Secretary-General “reiterates that settlements are illegal under international law and urges the government of Israel to halt and reverse such decisions in the interest of peace and a just final status agreement.”

“The secretary-general is deeply disappointed that this announcement comes only four days after the Middle East Quartet called on Israel to cease its policy of settlement construction and expansion.”

On July 1, the Quartet released the first report of its kind, which analysed the impediments to a lasting resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and offered recommendations on the way forward, urging Israel to stop its settlement policy and Palestine to end incitement to violence.

The Middle East Quartet — comprising the UN, Russia, the United States and the European Union — has been working on the report since February.

To promote the peace process in the Middle East, the diplomatic group is seeking a two-state solution — a secure State of Israel to live in peace with an independent State of Palestine.

In the report, the Quartet called on each side to “independently demonstrate, through policies and actions, a genuine commitment to the two-state solution” and to “refrain from unilateral steps that prejudice the outcome of the final negotiations.”

Also on Monday, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) confirmed that the Israeli authorities demolished two homes in Qalandia Refugee Camp in the occupied West Bank in the middle of Saturday night.

“Punitive home demolitions are a form of collective punishment which are illegal under international law,” UNRWA Spokesperson Chris Gunness said. “They inflict distress and suffering on those who have not committed the action which led to the demolition and they often endanger people and property in the vicinity.”

“UNRWA condemns punitive demolitions and reminds Israel, the occupying power, that under international humanitarian law it has an obligation to protect the occupied people and provide services,” the spokesperson added.