Qatari FM: Israeli Settlement Construction Is Obstacle to Peace

Kerry urges 'all sides' including the Arab world, to support both parties as they try to make peace.

Qatar's foreign minister said on Sunday that ongoing Israeli settlement construction is an obstacle to achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

"There are several obstacles to this process... We are talking about settlements," Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiya told a joint news conference with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris after meeting with representatives of Arab League over the Arab Peace Initiative.

The Arab Peace Initiative, put forward by Saudi Arabia at an Arab League summit in Beirut in 2002, offered full recognition of Israel but only if it gave up all land seized in the 1967 Middle East war and agreed to a "just solution" for Palestinian refugees. 

Kerry said it is vital that all sides, including the Arab world, offer support to both parties as they try to make peace.

"This meeting is almost as important as the negotiations themselves because the Arab League and the Arab community's support for a final status agreement is essential to the achievement of that agreement," Kerry told reporters.

"It is a critical component in creating momentum, and energy and seriousness of purpose in these talks," he added.

On Saturday, a U.S. official cited Kerry as urging the European Union to postpone the implementation of guidelines banning EU financial assistance to Israeli organizations with links to the West Bank, East Jerusalem, or the Golan Heights.

Kerry made the request at a meeting with EU foreign ministers in Vilnius, Lithuania, where he also called on them to support Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, which resumed on July 29 after a nearly three-year hiatus.

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said in turn that the EU will make sure the new settlement guidelines do not harm ties with Israel.

After completing his trips to Lithuania and France, Kerry was set to head to London to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, according to the U.S. State Department officials.