Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Brown optimism over Palestinian settlement

Gordon Brown has said he is “increasingly confident” that Israel is willing to end settlement activity in the Palestinian territories.

After talks with his Israeli counterpart Binyamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister said he was “as realistic as ever but more optimistic than before” about peace in the Middle East.

“We share a vision of a secure and confident Israel accepted and welcomed by its neighbour alongside — after decades of waiting — a secure and viable Palestine in a region at peace with itself,” he said.

Speaking alongside Mr Netanyahu in Downing Street, Mr Brown said he had reiterated his call for an end to Jewish settlements on Palestinian land.

“I made clear that settlement activity was a barrier to a two-state solution,” he said.

“I'm increasingly confident, however, that there is a genuine will to make progress, that a freeze in such activity would result in meaningful steps towards normalisation from Arab states.”

Mr Netanyahu, who is facing the same demands from US President Barack Obama, said he had made clear Israel would not build new settlements or “expropriate additional land”.

But he stressed there was a need for facilities to enable “normal life” for Jewish settlers already in the West Bank.

The Israeli premier, who is holding further talks in London today with former Northern Ireland peace talks chairman and US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, said Israel had already “moved” to improve access to the West Bank.

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