Palestinian FM: Settlements threaten chance for Palestinian state

By The Associated Press


Cheshvan 28, 5766

UNITED NATIONS - Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser Al-Kidwa warned that Israel's new settlements, separation fence and attempts to annex Jerusalem threaten "the window of opportunity" for a Palestinian state.

In a Tuesday speech to the UN General Assembly on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Al-Kidwa urged the international community "to prevent this from happening and to safeguard the two-state solution" which envisions Israel living peacefully beside a new state of Palestine.

He called Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip in September "an important development" but said it is critical that this is followed by a return to the so-called road map to Mideast peace, starting with Israel's withdrawal from cities and other areas to pre-September 2000 positions and the release of prisoners and detainees.

The so-called quartet - the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia - has drafted a road map to prod Israel and the Palestinians into a negotiated settlement, with simultaneous steps for each side.

Al-Kidwa accused Israel of continuing to build the West Bank barrier, which juts into Palestinian territory, despite an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice.

Israel is also continuing to construct settlements in violation of international law, U.N. resolutions and the road map, and is carrying out "illegal measures in and around East Jerusalem which aim to Judaize and de fact annex the city," he said. Many Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a new Palestinian state.

"Israel is thus working relentlessly to create conditions on the ground, which, if allowed to continue, threaten to close the window of opportunity to achieve the two-state solution," Al-Kidwa said.

He stressed that "whether or not we succeed in returning to the road map, we must under all circumstances ensure the real cessation of settlement activities and the construction of the (separation) wall and the measures in Jerusalem."

"We are in need of action from everyone," he said, including the quartet must take "specific and practical positions" to ensure that this happens.

Al-Kidwa also emphasized Palestinian opposition to "any interference by Israel or by any other party" in Jan. 25 parliamentary elections.

The elections should be open to all Palestinians and to all political groups in the entire Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, he said. "Israel should not create obstacles to any of these important political processes, particularly with regard to the freedom of movement and the participation of Jerusalemites."