US, UN join condemnation of renewed building

Ban Ki-moon "disappointed" in Israeli decision not to extend freeze; Sarkozy, British FM regret move; Mitchell heads to region

Settlement Building 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Settlement Building 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The United States and the UN joined a growing global condemnation of Israel's decision not to extend the building moratorium on Monday. Earlier, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Foreign Secretary William Hague, and EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherin Aston all issued condemnations of Israel for allowing the freeze to expire.
US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley on Monday told reporters that the US was "disappointed, but we remain focused on our long-term objective and will be talking to the parties about the implications of the Israeli decision." He said the US position in support of extending the freeze on settlements remained unchanged and praised Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for not immediately walking out of the talks.
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Crowley also announced that the Obama administration's special Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell will return to the region on Tuesday to continue urgent efforts to break a deadlock in negotiations over Israeli settlements.  Mitchell will hold meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials later in the week
Referencing the Quartet’s statement last week as “the united call of the international community urging Israel to extend the settlement restraint policy,” UN Secretary-General Ban Kimoon said on Monday he is “disappointed that no such decision has yet been taken and concerned at provocative actions taking place on the ground.”
In a statement, Ban said he “reiterates that settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law, and urges Israel to fulfill its road map obligation to freeze settlement activity.”
Ban also expressed support for ongoing efforts to find a way to continue the peace talks in “an environment conducive to progress.
“This is the only route to a viable Palestinian state living in peace with a secure Israel,” Ban’s statement concluded.
London also expressed its “disappointment” Monday at Israel’s refusal to extend the moratorium, AFP reported.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement: “I am very disappointed to hear that the moratorium has not been renewed.
“I remain very concerned that talks could falter on this issue and I call on Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government to show leadership to resolve this so the parties can focus on the real challenges ahead.”
Hague said he would personally pass on his appeal to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman at the UN General Assembly in New York, which both ministers are currently attending.
EU Foreign Policy Chief Ashton's expressed that "strongly regrets" the Israeli move and that "the position of the EU is very clear: settlements are illegal under international law, constitute and obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible," Ashton's spokesman told DPA on Monday.
Associated Press contributed to this report.