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Rice Warns Israel On Settlement

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says an Israeli plan to expand settlement activity in disputed areas of East Jerusalem could slow progress toward a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “At a time when we need to build confidence between the parties, the continued building and the settlement activity has the potential to harm the negotiations going forward,” Dr. Rice said in a June 15th appearance with Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Jerusalem.

Israel announced plans to build one-thousand-three-hundred new homes for Jewish settlers in territory Palestinians claim for the future capital. Secretary of State Rice says there is great need for continued progress to define the borders of the future Palestinian state, one of several goals of an intensive U.S.-supported peace effort launched at the November 2007 Annapolis Conference. Following talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, Dr. Rice said, “It’s important to have an atmosphere of confidence and trust. The United States believes that the [settlement] actions and the announcements that are taking place are indeed having a negative effect on the atmosphere for negotiation.”

Dr. Rice said, the new construction should not be allowed to shape future Israeli-Palestinian borders, which remain under negotiation. “The United States will not let these activities have any effect on final status negotiations, including final borders,” she said.

Settlement expansion also conflicts with the road map – a series of peace-building measures proposed by President George Bush in 2002 and subsequently developed by the diplomatic Quartet of the European Union, the United Nations, Russia, and the United States. Since the Annapolis conference, U.S. Air Force General William Fraser has been tasked to work with Palestinians and Israelis to oversee their implementation of the road map.

“Israel will benefit from the establishment of a peaceful and democratic Palestinian state,” said Secretary of State Rice, “and so it is in Israel’s interest to do everything that it can to promote an atmosphere of confidence.”