Settlements weaken efforts to forge peace this year, says PA

Israel Materials 19 April 2008 13:57 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Israel is undermining peace efforts by building more settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem, a Palestinian negotiator said Saturday.

The negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said Israel has been inviting bids to build settlements since last November - the month in which it had agreed with the Palestinian Authority (PA) to resume the peace process at a US-hosted conference in Annapolis.

"This was the issue that still blocks the peace process so far and this thing undermines the efforts which try to make the year 2008 a year of peace," Erekat told Voice of Palestine radio.

On Friday, Israel revealed plans to build and expand 100 homes in two West Bank settlements, violating the US-backed road map peace plan.

Defending the PA's decision not to halt the talks in protest, Erekat said the negotiations were "not faulty," adding that Israel was to blame for "not carrying its commitments under the road map which firstly calls on stopping the settlement activities including the natural growth" of the houses.

Meanwhile, Erekat said that President Mahmoud Abbas will visit Washington Sunday to confer with President Bush and senior US administration officials. His visit will last until April 25.