Tags: Israel | settlement | freze | demands

Israel Rejects Settlement Freeze Demands

Friday, 19 March 2010 09:28 AM

JERUSALEM - Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman arrived in Brussels on Friday for separate talks with officials of several European Union nations after an official meeting between the EU and Israel was called off.

Upon arriving in Brussels, Lieberman criticized the Quartet’s earlier statement, according to which Israel’s plan to construct new housing units in Jerusalem was a hindrance to peace negotiations which, if started, would see the creation of an independent Palestinian state within 24 months.

According to Israel Radio, Lieberman said that the Quartet’s statement ignores the fact that the foundations of peace must be set before peace can be achieved. Peace, he was quoted as saying, is not something that can be forced upon two parties or saddled to an unrealistic timeline.

Lieberman reportedly said that such statements only made real peace between Israel and the Palestinian a more remote possibility.

The Israeli embassy said Lieberman will meet with representatives of Europe's Jewish organizations during the weekend.

On Monday, he will meet with foreign ministers from Germany, Lithuania and Finland while attending the EU's monthly foreign affairs council.

EU spokeswoman Cristina Gallach said Lieberman was supposed to attend a joint EU-Israel committee meeting Monday, but this was postponed until next month because EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton had just visited Israel and Gaza this week.

Gallach denied that the postponement was not meant to be a snub, but the move came as EU-Israeli ties are under increasing strain.

In December, the European Union accused Israel of trying to divide it to stop it from passing a resolution calling for Jerusalem to be the shared capital of Israel and a future Palestinian state. The measure was adopted despite Israel's opposition.

The European Union also has criticized Israel over its suspected role in the slaying of a Hamas militant in Dubai and the killers' alleged use of forged EU passports.

Israel, meanwhile, was irked by Ashton's trip to the Gaza Strip, which remains under Hamas control. Ashton was the first senior diplomat to set foot in the blockaded territory in more than a year.

During her visit, a rocket fired by Gaza militants smashed into a greenhouse in an Israeli border village, killing a Thai worker. It was the first such death since Israel's massive offensive against Hamas-ruled Gaza more than a year ago.

The Israeli air force responded early Friday by striking six targets in southern Gaza. No injuries were reported.

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Friday, 19 March 2010 09:28 AM
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