- Title: WEST BANK: Palestinian President Abbas calls for Israeli settlement freeze
- Date: 6th July 2009
- Summary: UNVEILED 'FOUNDATION' STONE WITH ARABIC WRITING '
- Embargoed: 21st July 2009 13:00
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA3RA45HC2MUK1RX7ZARSINQF9S
- Story Text: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday (July 5) that Israel should freeze settlement activity, and that this does not mean that the Palestinian people accept existing settlements.
Speaking at the dedication ceremony of a public park in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Abbas said that every settlement is illegal.
"Regarding settlement-building, we have said before, we say now and we will continue to say - settlement-building on every inch of our land is illegal."
Abbas also said that a Palestinian call for a freeze in settlement activity does not mean that the Palestinians accept existing settlements,
"And when we demand now for a freeze in settlement-activities, we say 'stop', but this does not mean that we accept what was built in the past," he said.
At the Palestinian Legislative Council in Ramallah, demonstrators gathered to call for the release of Palestinian lawmakers who have been arrested, and held in Israeli jails. Many of the lawmakers were members of the Hamas-led legislative council elected three years ago.
Former Palestinian Finance Minister under the Hamas-led government, Amor Abdel Razek, said the elected lawmakers were kidnapped and prevented from carrying out their duties.
"Today we have a manifestation in solidarity with jailed representatives - commemorating three years of their kidnapping. Of course, today represents a painful memory for the Palestinian people, and for us especially. The legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people are now behind bars and are denied the right to serve their cause, nation, and people," he said.
Israeli Defence Minister Defence Minister Ehud Barak earlier in the day had said he would discuss with U.S. envoy George Mitchell a compromise over a peace "road map" calling for an Israeli settlement freeze and seek ways to promote regional peace.
Barak, who last met envoy George Mitchell on Tuesday (July 2) in New York, travels to London later on Sunday for another round of talks aimed at narrowing a rift with U.S. President Barack Obama, who has demanded a halt to settlement activity.
After last meeting Mitchell, Barak made a link between any Israeli agreement to limit settlement expansion and progress on Arab states "normalising" relations with Israel.
Barak has publicly raised the possibility that Israel might temporarily refrain from starting new building projects -- while continuing many under way -- in settlements in return for initial steps towards a regional peace agreement.
The Israeli proposal falls short of demands by Obama and the Palestinians for a settlement freeze in the occupied West Bank.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has said he has been meeting road map obligations to rein in militants, has made a resumption of peace talks with Israel conditional on a complete cessation of settlement activity.
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