(© Mercedes Pacho/ Ambassade de France en Isra?l)
The Saudi foreign minister on Saturday criticized Israel's settlement construction and said the country acts like a "spoiled child" because the international community is not tough enough in pressuring it to make concessions.
Prince Saud al-Faisal said Washington and other players in Mideast peace efforts should take a "firm and serious" stand to put an end to Israeli construction on land Palestinians want for a future state.
Israel's announcement Monday that it is building nearly 700 new apartments for Jews in east Jerusalem is "a source of worry, which we strongly condemn," he said.
The Palestinians want east Jerusalem as their capital and say each expansion of Jewish housing there is making partition as part of a future peace deal more difficult. The US, the Palestinians and the European Union condemned the new Israeli building plan.
Israeli-Palestinian talks broke off a year ago, and the Palestinians refuse to restart talks until all Israeli construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem is halted. The Palestinians rejected a partial Israeli settlement freeze as not enough.
The Saudi foreign minister said the international community needed to get tougher with Israel.
"The reason why a solution cannot be reached is the preferential treatment that Israel gets," he said. "When other countries violate international law, they get punished, except for Israel. If war crimes are committed, other countries get punished, except Israel.
"Israel has become in the international community like a spoiled child," he said. "It does what it wants without being questioned or punished."
Saud spoke after a meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, whose country has long been Israel's closest ally in the Muslim world, though relations were strained over last winter's war in Gaza.
Davutoglu said Israel should end the "catastrophe and calamity" in the Gaza Strip and should freeze settlement building.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday presented Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak with ideas for restarting the peace talks. Egyptian officials did not divulge specifics.
US Middle East envoy George Mitchell is expected in the region in the first half of this month.
The Saudi foreign minister said solutions to the most difficult issues - including final borders, Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees - should be presented for negotiation. If the parties fail to reach a settlement, then the International Court of Justice should get involved, he said.
Saud said Israel would be the first country to be threatened from the instability that would result if there is no Mideast peace.
Saud and the Turkish foreign minister also spoke about Iran's nuclear program and expressed support for diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving international suspicions that Teheran intends to develop a nuclear weapons capability.
Iran says its nuclear work is only for electricity production.
Saud said his country is negotiating with the Iranian government over the return of a daughter of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden to Saudi Arabia.
Eman bin Laden turned up at the Saudi Embassy in Iran more than a month ago after eluding guards in Iran who have held her, her sister and four brothers under house arrest for eight years.
It has long been believed that Iran has held a number of bin Laden's children since they fled Afghanistan after the US-led invasion of that country in 2001.
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