UN chief urges Israel to halt settlement construction

Israel must halt settlement building and present detailed proposals for a border with a future Palestinian state, visiting UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday, as he tried to persuade the Palestinians to continue low-level meetings with Israel that the international community hopes will evolve into serious negotiations.

Israel must halt settlement building and present detailed proposals for a border with a future Palestinian state, visiting UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday, as he tried to persuade the Palestinians to continue low-level meetings with Israel that the international community hopes will evolve into serious negotiations.

Ban praised Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for his leadership and publicly backed him on key issues, including the demand for a freeze of settlement building on occupied lands the Palestinians want for their state.

With Abbas by his side, the UN chief affirmed that “all Israeli settlements are contrary to international law and prejudice” the outcome of a final peace deal.

At the same time, Ban urged the Palestinian leader not to let the current peace efforts lose momentum. The dialogue on borders and security arrangements began last month at the urging of the Quartet of Mideast mediators — the U.S., UN, EU and Russia — which asked both sides to submit detailed proposals. The Quartet has said it wants a final deal by the end of the year.

Abbas has said the Jordanian-mediated exploratory meetings in Amman have run their course, but that he’ll decide after consultations with the Arab League next week whether to resume them. “I don’t like the word ’closing the door to negotiations.”’ Abbas said Wednesday. “Israel did not present encouraging offers in the Amman talks, but if it does, we will be ready (to resume talks).”