Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Kerry urges restraint on settlement issue

13 August 2013, 10:04

Bogota - US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Palestinians "not to react adversely" on Monday to Israel's announcement of new settlement building, and stressed the importance of getting back to peace talks.

With a new peace dialogue in its fledgling moments after a three-year halt, the approval of almost 800 housing units in annexed east Jerusalem and around 400 elsewhere in the West Bank on Sunday infuriated Palestinians.

The plan was swiftly followed by Israel announcing that it would release 26 veteran Palestinian prisoners ahead of a resumption of peace talks on Wednesday in Jerusalem.

As some Israeli ministers criticised the government's prisoner release, Palestinians slammed the settlement plan, which Washington and the European Union said on Monday was illegal and detrimental to peace efforts.

The last peace talks in 2010 broke down on the issue of settlement building.

Kerry, on a trip to Colombia, sought to neutralise the atmosphere, noting that the Israeli building plan was "to some degree expected," and calling for both sides to get down to resolving their major issues.

"We have known that there was going to be a continuation of some building in certain places, and I think the Palestinians understand that," he said.

But he added: "I think one of the announcements or maybe one of them was outside of that level of expectation, and that's being discussed right now".

Security and borders

Kerry, who took the lead in securing last month's resumption of peace talks, said he did not expect the latest developments to become a "speed bump," but he reiterated that the United States regards all settlements as illegal.

"What this underscores, actually, is the importance of getting to the table... quickly, and resolving the questions with respect to settlements, which are best resolved by solving the problem of security and borders," Kerry told reporters in Bogota.

"Once you have security and borders solved, you have resolved the question of settlements. And so I urge all the parties not to react adversely or to provoke adversely, whichever party may do one or the other in any way.

"With the negotiation of major issues, these kinds of hot-point issues really become much easier to - in fact, they are eliminated as the kind of flashpoints that they may be viewed as today."

The 26 prisoners constitute the first batch of a total of 104 long-term Palestinian and Israeli Arab inmates to be freed in four stages, depending on progress in the talks.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat underlined the importance of the prisoner release for peace talks to continue.

"We hope to put into effect what we've agreed on... we hope for the release of 104 prisoners. Each will return to his house. This is what we've agreed on," he told Israeli Arabic-language radio.

"There is a clear understanding between us and the Americans and Israelis. Any change [in that] will mean the agreement is off the table."

The decision to free prisoners, however, has angered the families of those killed in assaults.

"This is a day of celebration for terror organisations," Meir Indor, head of Almagor, a group representing Israeli victims of Palestinian attacks, told AFP.

‘Preventing’ peace talks

Most prisoners being freed were arrested for "murder", with five being "accomplices to murder" and one being guilty of "abduction and killing", Israel says.

All prisoners had been arrested before 1994 except one who was arrested in 2001.

Housing Minister Uri Ariel of the far-right Jewish Home party also reacted angrily to the impending releases.

"Terrorists belong in prison," Ariel said. "The terrorists who are being released murdered women and children, and it's not clear to me how releasing murderers can help peace."

Ariel's ministry had on Sunday announced tenders for the construction of 793 settlement housing units in annexed east Jerusalem and 394 elsewhere in the West Bank.

Media reports have implied that the construction announcement was meant to appease Netanyahu's far-right coalition partners, who oppose the release of prisoners but fervently promote settlement construction.

"I don't know of such a deal, but look - both were announced on the same day," Indor said.

Palestinian officials slammed the settlement announcement as a move aimed at "preventing" peace talks.

"It is clear that the Israeli government is deliberately attempting to sabotage US and international efforts to resume negotiations by approving more settlement units three days before the ... Palestinian-Israeli meeting," Palestinian negotiator Mohammed Shtayeh said.

Russia described the Israeli move as "a counterproductive step that complicates the atmosphere of the talks".

But a spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted that the new settlement units were "in areas that will remain part of Israel in any possible future peace agreement".

"It changes nothing," Mark Regev added.



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...