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    Israel must freeze West Bank settlement construction - Kouchner

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    The French foreign minister said the resumption of peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians is impossible until Israel freezes settlement construction in the West Bank.

    PARIS, September 4 (RIA Novosti) - The French foreign minister said the resumption of peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians is impossible until Israel freezes settlement construction in the West Bank.

    Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who met on Thursday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris, said he believed that the issue of Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank could be resolved at the next UN General Assembly session.

    "It will be more difficult or even impossible to reach an agreement [on peace talks resumption] if there is no agreement on freezing the colonization," Kouchner said.

    Under the internationally agreed roadmap for Middle East peace, Israel is obliged to freeze all settlement construction activity and remove unauthorized outposts built since 2001.

    Despite international pressure, however, construction of outposts has continued under what Israel calls "natural growth." The number of Jewish settlers living in the West Bank has risen 2.3% since the start of the year to over 304,500.

    Talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority launched after a peace conference hosted by then U.S. President George Bush in November 2007 made little progress and were comprehensively ended by an Israeli offensive on Gaza in December that left 1,400 Palestinians dead and 6,000 injured.

     

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