Israel settlement activities undermine peace efforts: India

United Nations: India today said Israel`s settlement activities in the Palestinian territories undermine efforts by the international community to resolve the conflict between the two sides and asked Tel Aviv to halt its construction to reach a peace deal.

Participating in an open debate at the UN Security Council on situation in the Middle East, India`s Permanent Representative to the UN Hardeep Singh Puri said the increasing trend of settlement activities in the Palestinian lands is not compatible with the two-state solution.

The Quartet, comprising envoys of US, EU, UN and Russia, is leading efforts to bring the two sides to the negotiating table and has set a deadline of 2012 end to reach an agreement on the final status issues. "For the Quartet`s time frame for reaching an agreement by the end of the year to be realised, it is necessary for Israel to completely stop settlement activities" in the occupied territories, he said.

Puri noted that the settlement activities are not only illegal under international law but also "undermine efforts of the international community" to resolve the conflict on the basis of the two-state solution.

Puri expressed concern that settlement activities have exacerbated the humanitarian problems of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. People in the area have been deprived of access to natural resources and prevented from undertaking economic, social and cultural activities. "Settlement activities have also led to violence and aggravated social tension between settlers and the Palestinian population. We, therefore, reiterate our call for Israel to stop all settlement activities," Puri said.

The blockade and restrictions on exports in Gaza have had far-reaching consequences and there is urgent need to ease restrictions on humanitarian supplies to the Gaza Strip, Puri said.

Puri reiterated India`s support for the Quartet`s efforts and said India stands ready to play its role in the Council`s collective endeavour to achieve just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. He said India has been "steadfast" in its support for the Palestinian people`s struggle for a sovereign and independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital, living within secure and recognized borders side by side and at peace with Israel.

On Palestine`s statehood bid at the UN, Puri said India remains convinced that Palestine meets all criteria and "deserves" to become a member of the UN. "We hope that the Council will support Palestine`s application for membership of the UN sooner than later," he added.

He noted that in order to achieve comprehensive and durable peace in the Middle East, progress has to be made on the Lebanese and Syrian tracks as well. "These critical issues must not be lost sight of amidst unprecedented social and political upheaval that the region is witnessing," he added.

Stressing for respect for sovereignty of countries in the region, Puri said "no action should be taken from outside that may exacerbate the problems and give rise to extremism."

Developments in the region call for consolidation of collective efforts of the international community to assist the countries in undertaking inclusive political processes and implementing reforms to meet legitimate aspirations of their people. "In such collective efforts, we must respect sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries. It is important that the grievances of the people are addressed through dialogue and negotiations rather than resort to arms," he said.