Too soon to talk of sanctions over settlements
Washington believes it is too early to talk about imposing sanctions on Israel to force it to freeze settlement building in east Jerusalem.Washington – Washington believes it is too early to talk about imposing sanctions on Israel to force it to freeze settlement building in east Jerusalem, a State Department spokesman said Tuesday.
"It's premature to talk about that," said spokesman Robert Wood when asked about the possibility of US financial sanctions.
"What we are trying to do, as I said right now, is to create an environment which makes it conducive for talks to go forward," he added.
"And you know, as I said, Senator Mitchell is working very hard on this."
US Middle East envoy George Mitchell was due to leave Washington later Tuesday, another State Department official said, asking to remain anonymous. No precise itinerary was given, but the official said Mitchell would meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders, but would probably not travel to Syria.
Israel came under intense diplomatic heat Tuesday over its settlement activity in occupied east Jerusalem, with the European Union and Russia warning it not to violate a Middle East peace plan.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy also repeated "the need for a complete freeze" of settlement activity after talks with Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak.
Israel's deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon said the Jewish state was "working and will continue to work in accordance with its vital national interests, especially with respect to Jerusalem."
But Wood responded: "Well, certainly no one is asking Israel to act outside its national security interests.
"What we're asking both parties to do is to fulfill their road map obligations. Both sides have committed to do that."
Under the Middle East peace roadmap, which has yet to be implemented, Israel has pledged to freeze settlement activity while the Palestinians vowed to end anti-Israeli violence.
The US, France and the European Union have called on Israel to halt work on 20 apartments due to be built on a site in Sheikh Jarrah, one of the most sensitive and upmarket neighborhoods closest to the so-called Green Line that separates east and west Jerusalem.
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it in a move not recognized by the international community.
It sees all of Jerusalem as its "eternal, undivided" capital and does not consider construction in east Jerusalem to be settlement activity.
AFP / Expatica