The Middle East Monitor (MEMO) has been in touch with the British Foreign Office in an attempt to illicit a reaction about Israel’s ever increasing settlement expansion programs, including the laying of the foundation stone of the biggest settlement in Jerusalem yesterday.
In a telephone interview with the Middle East Monitor (MEMO) this morning (Thursday 9/10/2009) Mr Barry Marston, a Foreign Office Spokesperson said: “We regard all settlement activity as 100% illegal. It contravenes international law to build on occupied land, such as the West Bank and East Jerusalem which we regard as being occupied. It is not just the fact that it is illegal which bothers us but it is an obstacle to peace and it sends out a very negative signal about Israel’s part in the peace process. That is why Britain and the EU and the United States and other interested parties have been lobbying Israel so hard over the last few months, because we believe settlement activity is unacceptable and deeply unhelpful. A freeze of settlement activity would be a very strong signal to the Palestinians and to the Arab world if Israel took such a step.”
When asked what the UK was actively doing to put an end to Israel’s continued expansion of settlements in contravention of international law and in defiance of the international community Mr Marston outlined some of the steps that the UK was taking. This included, he said, “lobbying Israel”, taking an “increasingly clear public line” and that “beyond that, measures included funding projects” such as “monitoring settlement activities” and “raising awareness about settlement expansion.” Mr Marston said that the UK government has also been looking into the “labeling of settlement goods” and “taking measures to ensure that settlement goods do not benefit from certain customs agreements that were put in place to benefit Palestinians.”