U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says Israeli settlements in occupied
territories are illegal, and that any plans to expand them must stop.
Mr. Ban made the remarks after getting a first hand look at Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank Saturday.
Mr. Ban and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad stood on a hilltop
outside Ramallah where they viewed a sprawling Jewish settlement with
an Israeli barrier. Beyond that, they observed settlements in East
Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as the capital of a future state.
The U.N. chief told reporters Saturday he hopes to see a peace
agreement between Israel and the Palestinians within 24 months, as
called for Friday by an international Quartet on the Middle East. He
said the agreement should bring an end to occupation in the Palestinian
territories and include Jerusalem as the capital of both Israeli and
Mr. Ban is on a two-day visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
He is also scheduled to meet with Israeli officials and visit the Gaza Strip.
Israel has been criticized internationally in recent days for a new plan to build 1,600 settler homes in East Jerusalem.
U.S. envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, is due in the region soon to begin indirect Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.