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British consul: Settlement construction 'killing' chances for peace

Oct. 19, 2013 4:43 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 20, 2013 8:17 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- British Consul General to Jerusalem Sir Vincent Fean said Friday that Israel's continued construction of settlements on Palestinian lands throughout the peace negotiations is "killing opportunities" for peace.

In an exclusive interview with Ma'an, Fean expressed optimism about the possibility of a comprehensive political agreement being reached with Israel in spring 2014 that could lead to the establishment of "Palestinian statehood."

However, he added that the continued construction of Israeli settlements within the West Bank despite ongoing negotiations between Israel and the PLO was dampening possibilities for peace.

Fean said that the potential comprehensive solution would involve Jerusalem as the joint capital of both states, with a limited exchange of lands on either side of the Green Line.

Finding a solution for refugees outside of Palestine is different from finding a solution for refugees inside Palestine, he added.

Fean also called on the Palestinian Authority to launch negotiations with Hamas and to conduct new elections.

The proceedings of the negotiations between Israel and Palestine are "confidential," he said, and are supported by American and European financial investments.

Peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians were relaunched in July under the auspices of the United States after nearly three years of impasse.

Israel's government has announced the construction of thousands of housing units in illegal settlements since peace talks began.

More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.

The UK on regional developments

Speaking about the civil war in Syria, Fean - a former ambassador to Damascus - told Ma'an that the United Kingdom does not support an armed European intervention. A political solution is the only solution, he said.

Additionally, he revealed British plans to reopen their embassy in Tehran, which has been closed since 2011.

Fean, who also worked as an ambassador in Libya for four years, said that it was better for the West if Libya stayed united in the face of ongoing instability.

"Libya has petrol and it has a small population of less than 6 million people," he said, adding that the West could help Libya solve its militia problems by supporting those who won parliamentary elections.
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