Last updated: Wednesday, September 04, 2013 11:36 PM
RAMALLAH – Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has said that his country will not evacuate Jewish settlements in occupied West Bank for any future peace agreement with Palestinians.
Ya’alon, of ruling Likud-Beiteinu party, said during a meeting with settlers’ leaders in a settlement near Ramallah that the direct Israeli Palestinian peace talks “are not dealing with the evacuation of settlements.” The Palestinian leadership decided to suspend the direct peace talks with Israel in October 2010, after the latter insisted on keeping building settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The Israeli minister said that “in the Middle East, we need to talk about interests and not signed agreements.”
He added that the settlements in West Bank were important to the home-front defense of Israelis and therefore needed to be strengthened and developed.
For his part, the head of the Council of Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories (Yesha), Avi Ro’eh, said that under Ya’alon, the Defense Ministry has been supportive of building projects for the settlements and has helped to advance them.
The development comes a day after Palestinian and Israeli negotiators met for the sixth round of talks since negotiations were restarted at the end of July in Washington in an attempt to solve the final status issues:
Jerusalem, refugees, boundaries, settlements and security. The parties, led by chief Palestinian negotiator Sa’eb Erekat and Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, made the talks under a complete media blackout, with the Israeli side not saying where or when they will take place, or even confirming their existence.
Meanwhile, Palestinian negotiator and member of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Central Committee Nabil Sha’ath said that the six rounds of talks did not achieve any progress.
Sha’ath told the Voice of Palestine Radio that “the Palestinian side held a number of negotiating sessions with the Israeli side in order to achieve progress, but Israel did not present anything positive.” He also complained about the absence of international pressure on Israel t make concessions.
The Palestinian official said that Israel’s policy on the ground was “in complete contradiction of the principles of the peace process.” He accused Israel of pursuing settlement construction.
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