Russia urges Israel against UNESCO-linked settlements

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Russia on Wednesday called on Israel to cancel its decision to accelerate settlement building in occupied territory in retaliation for Palestine's accession to UNESCO.

"We insistently urge the Israeli government to refrain from any unilateral actions that prejudge the result of the talks process on questions of the final status of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

It said that Russia found it "impossible to agree with decisions on collective punishment of Palestinians for their intention to enter the United Nations and its specialised organisations."

Russia spoke after a number of European leaders on Wednesday urged Israel to abandon its decision to accelerate construction of Jewish settlements in annexed Arab east Jerusalem and elsewhere in the West Bank,

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's inner cabinet made the decision on Tuesday a day after the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation accepted Palestine as a full member.

Russia also criticised Israel's decision to withhold Palestinian tax revenues.

"Such a measure contradicts Israeli obligations according to earlier concluded agreements and could lead to the degradation of the Palestinian economy," it warned.

Israel decided to freeze the transfer of customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports, which constitute a large percentage of the Palestinian budget.

© 2011 AFP

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