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Abbas meets UN chief, urges end to settlements

Feb. 1, 2012 10:17 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 2, 2012 10:49 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- President Abbas met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday and called on Israel to stop settlement building and lift the blockade on Gaza, Palestine TV reported.

The UN chief had earlier visited Israeli prime minister Netanyahu, urging the Israelis "to act in a constructive spirit and offer goodwill gestures which will create a positive dynamic."

Abbas said that the Palestinian leadership will discuss the recent exploratory talks in Amman at a follow up Arab League committee meeting on Feb. 4.

He stressed that Israel must lift the ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip and steps must be taken to support the budget for UNRWA's work.

The UN chief praised Palestinian state-building and discussed the issue of settler violence.

Five sessions of exploratory talks ended in Jordan on Jan. 25 and Palestinian officials said Abbas planned to consult an Arab League follow-up committee next week on what to do next.

PLO official Nabil Shaath told the Russian deputy foreign minster on Wednesday that Israel had presented a "colonial vision" to the Palestinians as part of their proposal on security and borders.

Ban said he still hoped that Israel would present "its own concrete proposals on territory and security" as called for by an international Quartet of mediators - the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.

Palestine's Observer to the UN Riyad Mansour told a UN Security Council briefing last week that Palestinians continued to hope for freedom and justice "despite all odds."

"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," he said.

Netanyahu on Sunday accused the Palestinians of refusing to discuss "Israel's security needs" at the Amman talks and described peace prospects as poor.

Reuters contributed to this report
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