German Chancellor Angela Merkel has slammed Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories as “counterproductive” to the so-called two-state solution.
In a joint press conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Berlin on Tuesday, Merkel expressed concerns over the stalemate in the Middle East negotiations.
“I am critical of the settlement policy,” Merkel said, adding she had conveyed her concern to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I have expressed my mind critically to the Israeli Prime Minister many times that ... these settlement activities are counter-productive,” she said.
Abbas, for his part, stressed that Israel’s “housing development is the biggest problem for the attainment of freedom.”
Abbas also met with German President Joachim Gauck and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier as part of his international tour to secure support for a United Nations vote to officially condemn the Israeli settlement policy.
The last round of the so-called peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014. Tel Aviv’s illegal settlement activities and its refusal to release senior Palestinian prisoners were among major reasons behind the failure of the talks.
Tel Aviv formally suspended the talks with the Palestinian Authority on April 24, 2014, after Abbas forged a unity pact with the Hamas resistance movement, which is based in the blockaded Gaza Strip.
Israel responded to the unity pact by announcing tenders for the building of 4,800 illegal settler units on the occupied Palestinian territories.
Palestinians want the West Bank as part of their future independent state, with East al-Quds (Jerusalem) as its capital. The State of Palestine is recognized by 136 out of the 193 United Nations member states.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned on Monday that the two-state solution “seems more distant than it has for many decades,” citing continuing tensions in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israel’s illegal settlement activities and its demolitions of Palestinian homes.
All Israeli settlements are illegal under the international law. Tel Aviv has defied calls to stop the settlement expansions in the occupied Palestinian territories.