Stop all settlement activities: India asks Israel

Tehran: India on Tuesday asked Israel to stop all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories and emphasised that it supports a negotiated solution resulting in a "sovereign, independent, viable and united state of Palestine".

"The Palestinian cause is of paramount importance to India. In fact, India was the first non-Arab country to recognise the state of Palestine on November 16, 1988, pursuant to the Algiers Declaration of November, 15 1988," External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said on Tuesday.

Krishna made the remarks while intervening at Ministerial meeting of the NAM Committee on Palestine here in Tehran.

The meeting was earlier scheduled to be held in Ramallah but Israel had prevented it on the grounds that some members did not have diplomatic relations with Jerusalem. Krishna termed Israel`s move as "unfortunate".

"NAM Committee had aptly condemned this blatant action of Israel in strong terms," he said.

The Minister said the conflict in West Asia is essentially political in nature and cannot be resolved by force.

"In line with our support for UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, India supports a negotiated solution resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable and united state of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as it`s capital, living within secure and recognised borders, side by side at peace with Israel as endorsed in the Quartet Roadmap and UNSC Resolutions 1397 & 1515. In addition, we have also supported the Arab Peace Initiative," he said.

Krishna said that India has called for an end to illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and for an early and significant easing of restrictions on the free movement of persons and goods within Palestine.

"The continuing settlement activities in West Bank and East Jerusalem are threatening the basic premises of the two-state solution. We think that freezing of illegal settlement activities by Israel should be the first step for resumption of direct talks," he said.

Krishna said settlement activities have also exacerbated the humanitarian problems of the Palestinian people with increasing violence and aggravation of tension between the settlers and the Palestinian population.
"We, therefore, reiterate our call to Israel to stop all settlement activities," he said.

Krishna said the political upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa and some other factors "have unfortunately pushed the Middle East Peace Process to the background".

"We support the revival of the Peace Process. We had welcomed the `direct talks` between the Israelis and the Palestinians. However, informal talks over the last two years have not resulted so far in any substantive progress towards resumption of direct talks," Krishna said.

"In line with their commitment to democratic values and principles, reconciliation in Palestine is welcome. We hope that these efforts will bear fruit soon, leading to the formation of a Unity Government, holding of elections, re-unification of Palestinian state institutions and measures for reconstruction and development of Palestinian society," Krishna added.

He hoped that the NAM meeting on Palestine will send a strong signal to all concerned and will lead to revival of the peace process to achieve a just, comprehensive and durable peace in the Middle East.