Russia concerned by Israel's resumption of settlement construction

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Russia is seriously concerned by Israel's decision not to prolong its moratorium on settlement construction on the West Bank, Russia's envoy to the UN said on Wednesday.

Russia is seriously concerned by Israel's decision not to prolong its moratorium on settlement construction on the West Bank, which expired on Monday, Russia's envoy to the UN said on Wednesday.

Israel's refusal to meet Palestinian demands to extend the settlement construction ban means the direct Palestinian-Israeli talks that resumed recently after a long break are once again on the brink of collapse.

The 10-month moratorium on building Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territory expired at 00:01 a.m. on Monday. Tel Aviv refused to extend it despite strong international pressure and on Monday morning it started construction of more than 50 housing units in the West Bank town in Ariel.

"The decision of the Israel's authorities not to prolong the moratorium on settlement construction raises serious concerns," Vitaly Churkin said at the UN General Assembly.

The parties should show political will and do their best for the talks to succeed, Churkin said.

Shortly before the ban expired, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel "must choose between peace and the continuation of settlements."

Abbas said he would make a decision on the fate of the direct peace talks after Saturday's consultations with the League of Arab States.

Many international bodies, including the Middle East Quartet of negotiators - Russia, the United States, the United Nations and the European Union - have repeatedly called on Israel to extend the moratorium.

Direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks came to a halt in December 2008, when Israel launched an attack on the Gaza Strip in a bid to put an end to the firing of homemade rockets at southern Israel by Palestinian militants based in the enclave. The negotiations resumed in the United States on September 2.

The Palestinians have cited ongoing Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, both occupied by Israel since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, as the main obstacle to the peace process.

MOSCOW, September 29 (RIA Novosti)

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