Al Quds Committee calls for curbs on ​Israeli settlements

January 19, 2014 - 6:20:46 am

MARRAKECH: Muslim nations urged the international community yesterday to put pressure on Israel to stop building Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, at the end of talks in Morocco.

The Al Quds (Jerusalem) Committee made the call amid heightened concerns settlements could undermine US-brokered peace talks that resumed in July after becoming bogged down three years earlier over the construction drive.

“The international community must... put pressure on Israel to stop the illegal and provocative settlement construction,” a statement said at the end of the two-day meeting in Marrakesh.

That “will create a favourable context for the pursuit of peace negotiations” between Israel and the Palestinians, and for relations between Israel, its Arab neighbours and the Muslim world, the statement added. The panel also praised the United States as a “serious” broker of the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

The committee was founded by the pan-Muslim Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in 1975 to resist the confiscation of Palestinian land and assets in Jerusalem.

Chairman King Mohamed VI of Morocco opened the meeting Friday by calling for “a strong mobilisation of our own means and resources... to defend the Holy City.”

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas later claimed Israel was using the peace talks as a “cover” to expand settlements in the West Bank.

Concerns over settlement construction returned to the fore last week when Israel announced plans to build 1,800 new settler homes in the West Bank, including annexed Arab east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of their future state.

The announcement came only days after the latest peace mission by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who criticised the settlements as “illegitimate” and “unhelpful.”

The controversial decision prompted Britain, Italy, France and Spain to summon Israeli ambassadors in protest, with the Jewish state calling in European ambassadors on Friday in a tit-for-tat move.

After Israel unveiled the plans, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon launched a tirade against Secretary of State John Kerry for his “obsession” with brokering a framework peace deal by April, sparking a diplomatic spat with Washington.