Abbas seeks Security Council meeting on settlements

RAMALLAH, West Bank Wed Nov 10, 2010 5:22pm EST

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sits under a picture of the Dome of the Rock during a meeting with Middle East envoy Tony Blair (not seen) in the West Bank city of Ramallah October 19, 2010. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sits under a picture of the Dome of the Rock during a meeting with Middle East envoy Tony Blair (not seen) in the West Bank city of Ramallah October 19, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Mohamad Torokman

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RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has asked for a U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss Jewish settlement building on occupied land in the West Bank where the Palestinians aim to found a state.

Israel said on Monday it would go ahead with plans for 1,300 new apartments on land in and around Jerusalem that was annexed by Israel following the 1967 Middle East war. A further 800 housing units were planned for the settlement of Ariel in the northern West Bank.

"Something must be done on the international level to halt the settlement expansion which the Israeli government is undertaking in the West Bank, including Jerusalem," Nabil Abu Rdainah, the spokesman for Abbas, said on Wednesday.

Abbas had instructed his delegate to the United Nations, where the Palestinians have observer status, to request the meeting, he told Reuters.

U.S.-backed peace talks aimed at ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through the creation of a Palestinian state are stalled because of the dispute over the construction of settlements.

The Palestinian delegate, Riyad Mansour, told Reuters by phone from New York that he would make the request via Arab states that have full member status.

At the United Nations, diplomats said Mansour had spoken by telephone on Wednesday with British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, who currently holds the council presidency, about a possible meeting but had not mentioned a specific date.

Abbas, who opposes violence in pursuit of Palestinian statehood, has said direct negotiations with Israel remain his first choice for pursuing peace.

He has also said he will seek U.S. and U.N. Security Council support for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the event of a failure of the talks, part of the "peace process" that began two decades ago.

'NOT HELPFUL'

Major powers see the settlements as an obstacle to a peace deal that would end the six-decade-old conflict.

Close to 500,000 Jews live on lands captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, where the Palestinians seek to found a state that would also include the separate Gaza Strip.

The Palestinians, concerned that settlement building will render that goal impossible, say they will not resume the peace talks until Israel agrees to halt all settlement construction.

Peace talks started in early September but were derailed a few weeks later when Israel lifted West Bank settlement construction restrictions it had been enforcing for 10 months.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Cabinet is dominated by parties that back the settlers, including his own Likud.

Israel says the annexation made Jerusalem its "united and indivisible capital," but the claim has not won international recognition.

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday the settlement-building plans were not helpful for peace talks, adding that neither side was making the extra effort for a breakthrough.

(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by David Stamp and Peter Cooney)

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