Italy Joins Calls for Israeli Settlement Freeze

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi has opposed to new Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories naming the issue as an obstacle to peace in the Middle East.

After meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday in Rome, Berlusconi said he had "stressed the need to send significant signals on stopping settlements which represent an obstacle to peace."

Netanyahu evaded his counterpart’s criticism of continued settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territories, saying concentrating on the issue of Jewish communities is a "waste of time" that interfered with the peace process.

After his Italy tour, Netanyahu is scheduled to visit France for discussions with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and US Middle East envoy George Mitchell.

Sarkozy has also called on Tel Aviv to divide Jerusalem (al-Quds) and allow the Arab-dominated eastern part of the city — occupied by Israel during the six-day war in 1967 and later illegally annexed by the regime — to be the capital of the proposed Palestinian state, whereas hawkish Netanyahu insists the city is the undivided capital of Israel.

The Israeli premier earlier expressed his government’s readiness to discuss the formation of a Palestinian homeland, provided that world powers guarantee it remained demilitarized.

Meanwhile, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini urged Netanyahu to resume talks with the Palestinian Authority, which has announced freeze of all Israeli construction activity in the West Bank as prerequisite of any negotiations.

Concerning what Tel Aviv calls "natural growth" in Jewish communities, which has also faced opposition in Washington, Frattini said "If it means expanding settlements like wildfire, that is a problem."

(Press TV)

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