Israeli settlement building anywhere on occupied land is illegal and must be stopped, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Saturday, after getting a closer look at some of the Israeli enclaves scattered across Palestinian-claimed territories.
During a high-profile West Bank visit, Ban was escorted to an observation point by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
From the hill on the outskirts of Ramallah, the UN secretary-general was able to see the sprawling settlement of Givat Ze’ev, home to 11,000 Israelis who live in rows of red-roofed houses. The panorama also included Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem.
The brief geography lesson came a day after Ban, US Secretary of State Hillary Clintonand representatives of the EU and Russia — known together as the Quartet — met in Moscow to try to find a way to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
The mediators urged Israel to halt all settlement construction, which has emerged as a key obstacle to renewing talks. Israel has agreed to curb settlement construction in theWest Bank, but not in east Jerusalem.
On Saturday, Ban rejected Israel’s distinction between east Jerusalem and the West Bank, noting that both are occupied lands.
“The world has condemned Israel’s settlement plans in east Jerusalem,” Ban told a news conference after his brief tour. “Let us be clear. All settlement activity is illegal anywhere in occupied territory and must be stopped.”
The UN chief reassured his Palestinian hosts that the international community supports the establishment of a Palestinian state, and also expressed concern about what he said was a worsening humanitarian situation in blockaded Hamas-ruled Gaza.