U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton again clarified the U.S. position on Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Following a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo on Wednesday, Clinton said: “We do not accept the legitimacy of settlement activity and we have a very firm belief that ending all settlement activity, current and future, would be preferable.”
She called on the Palestinians to agree to resume peace negotiations, saying, “Getting into final-status negotiations will allow us to bring an end to settlement activity.”
Clinton made a last-minute stop in Cairo following a visit to the region to assure the Arab world that the Obama administration is continuing to call for a halt to Israeli settlements, according to reports.
The comments came after a similar statement Monday on the sidelines of a conference of foreign ministers of Persian Gulf countries in Marakesh, Morocco in which she said that Israel’s willingness to restrain though not halt settlement activity falls “far short of what our preference would be, but if it is acted upon it will be an unprecedented restriction on settlements and would have a significant and meaningful effect on restraining their growth.”
On Oct. 31, during a news conference in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Clinton lauded Israel for offering ‘‘unprecedented’’ concessions on West Bank settlement construction, which include not building any new settlements or expropriating land for additions to existing settlements.
She explained then that a settlement freeze has never been a precondition for restarting negotiations.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has rejected the restarting of peace talks until Israel completely halts building in West Bank settlements.