Arab League Chief: No Peace Talks if Israel Continues Building

Continued negotiations cannot proceed if settlement freeze lifted, as it will threaten the territorial integrity of the new state of Palestine, Moussa says.

The newly started Israeli-Palestinian peace talks will fail unless Israel extends a partial ban on settlement building in the West Bank, territory the Palestinians want for a future state, Arab League chief Amr Moussa warned late Friday.

Arab League chief Amr Moussa AP June 2, 2010

Speaking on the sidelines of the United Nations annual summit in New York, Moussa said negotiations could not proceed if building of settlements continued on the occupied West Bank because it would threaten the territorial integrity of the new state of Palestine.

"Negotiations cannot go with settlements," he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said a partial moratorium on settlement construction will not be extended when it expires on Sunday.

"If they continue eroding the territorial integrity of the Palestinian lands, if they continue changing the demographic composition of the territories, why are the negotiations conducted, why are we wasting time?" Moussa asked.

Earlier in the week, Moussa met with senior diplomats from the Quartet of Mideast peacemakers - the U.S., the European Union, the United Nations and Russia - to discuss a way forward in the talks. The Quartet also has called on Israel to extend its settlement freeze.

Israel has refused to do so, arguing that settlement building was not be an impediment to the talks.

Moussa indirectly criticized the United States and other Western nations, claiming they were continuing to support Israel's intransigence.

"Defending Israel on everything, even (against) calling on Israel to join the Nonproliferation Treaty, is something very, very strange and does not augur well to building confidence," he said.

Moussa also said the Arab effort to get the 151-nation UN nuclear agency to urge Israel to join the international nuclear treaty to which all other states in the Middle East belong, failed after a worldwide campaign by Israel's western allies to prevent this.

The resolution was defeated earlier Friday by a five-vote margin at the agency's meeting. Israel is generally assumed to have assembled a sizable arsenal of nuclear warheads since the 1960s, but declines to discuss its status as a nuclear power.

We see nothing wrong (in calling) for Israel to join the NPT as part of efforts to make the Middle East a zone free of nuclear weapons, Moussa told reporters.

Washington strongly opposed the Arab move, saying it would undermine Israel-Palestinian peace talks and plans for a major conference in two years on a Mideast nuclear free zone. Senior U.S. officials have said they could envisage a Middle East free of such weapons, even if Israel retains its arsenal.

Moussa rejected that.

"Why should Israel be the only one? The answer is of course no, it shouldn't be the only one. In fact, there should be no nuclear power in the Middle East," he said. "This is a recipe for chaos and for an arms race in the Middle East."