[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] released a statement [text] Tuesday asserting that Israeli plans to expand settlements in the West Bank violate international law. The statement was delivered by Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Max Gaylard at the opening of the UN International Meeting on the Question of Palestine [UN press release] in Malta. In his statement, Ban noted that:
Both sides must seize the current window of opportunity to push the peace process forward, especially by acting on their obligations under the Road Map.Ban also criticized Israel for continuing work on the security fence [backgrounder] between Israel and the West Bank after an International Court of Justice advisory opinion [JURIST report] found that the barrier is illegal.
Some actions have already been taken. The Palestinian Authority under Prime Minister Fayyad has acted to improve its security capabilities and to implement fiscal reform. Israel has agreed to remove some of the obstacles that hinder Palestinian movement in the West Bank. It has also consented to the issuance of entry permits to Israel for thousands of Palestinian workers.
These are welcome steps. But much more remains needs to be done. Continuing settlement activity contravenes both international law and Israel's obligations under the Road Map.
Israel has been harshly criticized since announcing Sunday that it plans to build over 800 new homes in East Jerusalem [Ha'aretz report] on land captured during the 1967 Six-Day War. The new construction would appear to violate the terms of the Roadmap to Solution of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict [text], which calls for Israel to halt the construction of all settlement projects. CNN has more.