France, Switzerland call for stop to settlement building


JERUSALEM (JTA) — France questioned Israel’s ambassador over settlement policy as Switzerland called on Israel to halt settlement construction.

Ambassador Daniel Shek answered a summons to appear Thursday before officials in the French Foreign Ministry. Officials, echoing calls earlier in the week by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and President Nicolas Sarkozy, called for an immediate freeze in settlement construction, including in eastern Jerusalem, saying it was necessary for a two-state solution. 

Also Thursday, a statement released by Switzerland’s Foreign Ministry called on Israel to halt settlement construction. The statement also expressed the ministry’s concern "over the destruction of houses near East Jerusalem’s old town and the planned eviction of Palestinian families."

The call comes a day after the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Israel to freeze settlement building in eastern Jerusalem.

"I urge the government of Israel to commit fully to its obligations, including freezing settlement activity and natural growth," said Ban, addressing a United Nations meeting in Geneva. "If Israel continues settlement activity, it will not only be acting contrary to international law but also to a strong international consensus."

The European Union and Russia also called on Israel this week to halt a building project on Jewish-owned land in Arab eastern Jerusalem.

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