Olmert signals no end to settlement construction

Israeli PM insists he will not freeze construction of new settlements in occupied Palestinian territories.

Olmert signals no end to settlement construction
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert signalled in a Japanese television interview broadcast on Monday that construction of settlements, which largely angers Palestinians, would not be stopped.

Olmert, who arrived in Japan later in the day for a three-day visit, expressed his unwillingness to freeze construction of new homes amid the latest development in an east Jerusalem settlement.

"First of all it is difficult (to stop construction) because you are talking about living entities," Olmert told broadcaster NHK before his departure for Tokyo.

Israel began constructing 66 new buildings last month in Maaleh Hazeitim, the Ras al-Amud area of east Jerusalem which Israel occupied and annexed in the 1967 war and which Palestinians want as the capital of their future state.

The development comes as Israel and the Palestinians are engaged in the most serious peace talks in years aimed at solving the thorniest issues of the Middle East conflict, including the future status of Jerusalem.

The settlement construction has also drawn strong criticism from the United States, which has backed the renewed peace talks which were relaunched at an international peace conference in the US city of Annapolis last November.

Olmert is expected to meet his Japanese counterpart Yasuo Fukuda on Wednesday and the two are expected to focus on bilateral economic ties as well as efforts to halt Iran's nuclear program.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 25 Şubat 2008, 13:12