Finland’s foreign minister has described Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories as “apartheid,” warning that time for the two-state solution was running out.
“If you are occupying areas inhabited by … Palestinians who do not have the same rights as the Israelis in Israel, that is apartheid and that is not sustainable,” AFP quoted Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja as saying on Wednesday.
“I think that the majority in Israel has also realized this but they have been unable to provide a leadership that (can) move forward on the two-state solution,” Tuomiojo said.
Meanwhile, envoys from the Middle East Quartet, comprising of the European Union, United States, Russia and the United Nations, held separate talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials in East Jerusalem.
Palestinian Authority chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, cast doubts on whether the talks could have a positive outcome as long as Israel continued its illegal settlement constructions.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered to freeze construction of the illegal settlements so as to help the talks move forward.
Earlier in the month, Netanyahu had issued an order to set up a task force that will explore ways to legalize unauthorized settlement outposts built on private Palestinian land.
Two weeks ago, Israel’s Lands Administration released a plan to construct 2,610 new residential units, two-thirds of which are designated for Israeli settlers in Givat Hamatos to create a settlement belt around occupied East Jerusalem.
The plan drew criticism from US and European officials.
The international community considers all settlements built in the occupied West Bank illegal.