Israel reiterates promise not to build settlements

G8 and Quartet urge freeze to settlement activity.

G8 foreign ministers 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
G8 foreign ministers 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Responding to international demands that Israel freeze construction in the West Bank, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's media advisor said Saturday night that Israel would do so. "The government of Israel has already articulated that we will not build new settlements, nor will we expropriate further land for the purpose of settlement building," said Mark Regev. The comments followed statements on Friday by both the Group of Eight summit of the world's major industrialized nations and the Middle East Quartet - the US, Russia, EU and UN - urging Israel to freeze all settlement activity. The call included a freeze on "natural growth" construction, referring to building intended to cope with the housing needs of growing families in Jewish towns in the West Bank. The Quartet also urged the government to dismantle settlement outposts erected since March 2001. "Let's be clear here. The final fate of the settlements will be determined in negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians," Regev said. "Our position is that neither the Israeli nor Palestinian side should take any steps that could prejudge final status negotiations. In the interim, our position is that inside existing communities normal life should be allowed to continue." The G8 and Quartet meetings took place in Italy, as foreign ministers of the G8 countries met to discuss various issues - mainly recent events in Iran. US Mideast envoy George Mitchell and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon were among the participants at the Quartet meeting. G8 nations also called on Israelis and Palestinians to renew direct negotiations over all disputed issues. A range of Arab League nations will join a follow-on session Friday afternoon. Israel was not invited, but the Italian Foreign Ministry said that the decision on who to invite was made by the Quartet, not Italy. The Friday declarations follow a week of pressure on Israel to freeze all settlement growth. On Wednesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for a complete halt to the construction during a meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Paris. AP contributed to this report.