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SA condemns Israeli settlement activities at UN

Jan. 25, 2012 8:32 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 26, 2012 12:46 P.M.)
NEW YORK (Ma'an) -- South Africa on Tuesday condemned Israeli settlement activities as "acts of aggression" at a UN Security Council briefing in New York.

South Africa's Deputy Minister of International Relations Ebrahim Ebrahim told the council that Israel's ongoing expansion of illegal Jewish-only settlements made the two-state solution "a distant, if not a pipe dream."

Ebrahim, who is January's president of the Security Council, recalled South Africa's struggle to end Apartheid and said the country was certain Palestine would succeed in its own struggle for statehood.

South Africa appreciates the efforts of the Quartet of peace mediators -- the US, UN, EU and Russia -- to restart negotiations between Israel and the PLO, Ebrahim said.

The Quartet in October asked Israel and the PLO to submit proposals on borders and security by Jan. 26.

The PLO submitted its proposals in early January, a move Ebrahim said was "emblematic" of its commitment to resolving the conflict.

Israel's failure to submit its proposals is disappointing, the council president said.

He added that the international community should consider reassessing the effectiveness of the Quartet.

Speaking at the same briefing, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernández-Taranco said the UN remained "hopeful" that ongoing talks between Israeli and PLO envoys in Amman would lead to negotiations.

But Fernández-Taranco said Israel's settlement building, incursions into the West Bank and arrests of Palestinian MP's continued to fuel tensions, as did rocket fire from Gaza and Israeli airstrikes on the coastal enclave.

After the briefing, Palestine's Observer to the UN Riyad Mansour told the council that Palestinians continued to hope for freedom and justice "despite all odds."

He added: "The two-State solution is withering with every inch of Palestinian land seized by the occupying Power, every settlement unit constructed, every Israeli settler transferred, every wall erected, every home demolished and every Palestinian family displaced."

Meanwhile, Israel's representative Ron Prosor insisted that settlements were not the main obstacle to peace.

Prosor said the issue of Palestinian refugees seeking to return was the primary obstacle to a negotiated solution.

The right of refugees to return is mandated in UN resolutions.

"You have a responsibility to stand up and say that the so-called ‘claim of return’ is a non-starter," Prosor told the council.

He also criticized the Palestinians' refusal to recognize Israel.

The PLO officially recognized Israel in 1993.
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