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UN chief "deeply concerned" over Israeli expansion in West Bank settlement


10:21, December 13, 2011

UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 12 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon on Monday said he was "deeply concerned" over reports on the Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, calling on the government to "freeze all settlement activity."

"The secretary-general is deeply concerned about today's reports of the government of Israel's decision to approve the construction of 40 houses and a farm near the settlement of Efrat in the occupied territory near the Palestinian town of Bethlehem," said a statement released by Ban's spokesperson.

The secretary-general called on the government of Israel to " freeze all settlement activity," said the statement. "Such activity is contrary to international law and the roadmap, and prejudices final status negotiations," Ban said.

"These actions by the government of Israel come at a critical juncture when the Quartet continues efforts to facilitate the resumption of direct negotiations between the parties," Ban said in the statement.

"For this to succeed, the parties must refrain from provocative actions and help create a positive environment for negotiations."

The peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been stalled since October last year, after Israel refused to stop settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

The new construction approvals came shortly before representatives of the Quartet of Middle East peace mediators, comprising the United States, Russia, UN and European Union, started efforts to revive negotiations.

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