The German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has warned Israel against continued settlement expansion, saying that it undermines peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
Steinmeier, who is paying his first official visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories since being appointed in December as the German foreign minister, asserted that: "it is clear that the continuing construction of the settlements actually affects the peace process."
The minister, whose country is considered a close ally of Israel, announced his support for the efforts of US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is trying to persuade both the Israelis and the Palestinians to agree on a "framework proposal" that includes the outline of a final peace agreement.
After a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, the minister stated that: "We are at a crucial stage of the peace process. We have committed ourselves to consistently supporting these efforts."
On his part, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said: "We have asked the international community to realise that the Israeli government should choose between either settlements or negotiations, as the party who is using the language of dictations must be held accountable."
He added that, "those who support the 'two-state solution' should obligate Israel to immediately halt its settlement activity."
Before meeting with the Palestinian side, Steinmeier had earlier represented his country at the funeral of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Source: Al Resalah