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Biden condemns recent Jewish settlement expansion amid Palestinian outrages

2010-03-11 08:11 BJT

by Saud Abu Ramadan, Emad Drimly

RAMALLAH, March 10 (Xinhua) -- Visiting U.S. Vice President Joe Biden Wednesday condemned the recent Israeli decision to build more new settlements in East Jerusalem, which inflamed the Palestinians' concerns that it will undermine the proximity talks proposed by the United States.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) attends a joint press conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after their meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on March 10, 2010. (Xinhua/Fadi Arouri)
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) attends a joint press conference with Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas after their meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on
March 10, 2010. (Xinhua/Fadi Arouri)

On Tuesday, the Israeli-right wing government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that it had given the greenlight to a project to construct 1,600 new homes in a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

Two days earlier, another plan was approved to build 112 new housing units in a settlement in the West Bank.

"The decisions undermine that very trust we must right now begin," Biden told a joint news conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, stressing that "the U.S. is committed with its efforts to establishing a stable and viable Palestinian state."

The Israeli decision was made a few days after an Arab League ( AL) committee and then the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee approved a U.S. offer to begin indirect proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians which ended a 15-month hiatus since Israel launched a devastating military campaign against the Gaza Strip in late 2008.

"There is no alternative for achieving the principle of the two- state solution," said Biden at the news conference.

Biden said Washington "will hold both sides accountable for any statements or actions that will inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome of talks," noting that the building of the new settlements did inflame the situation, and both sides "should build an atmosphere to support these negotiations."

Meanwhile, Abbas condemned the Israeli decision to build more housing units into the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

He said "The actions and measures carried out by Israel in the West Bank and Jerusalem are threatening to undermine the indirect negotiations."

"I call on Israel to halt all settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem," Abbas told reporters, adding that "It's time now to make real peace in the Middle East based on the U.S. vision of the two-state solution."

Abbas also called on Israel "not to waste the opportunity for making real comprehensive peace and give the Arabs and international efforts, which are also exerted by U.S. President Barack Obama and his envoy George Mitchell, an opportunity to succeed."