United Nations: India has asked Israel to stop settlement activities in occupied Palestinian territories, terming it a stumbling block in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed said that New Delhi welcomed the recent agreement between Israel and Hamas on exchange of prisoners and hopes this move will "ease tension and build confidence."
Speaking at a UN Security Council debate on the situation in the Middle East and Palestine, Ahamed said the "biggest stumbling block" to direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians remains continuing settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories.
"We call upon Israel to stop settlement activities. This will facilitate resumption of negotiations in which all final status issues should be addressed," he said.
The Minister voiced India's firm conviction that lasting peace and security in the region can be achieved only through peaceful dialogue and not through use of force.
Taking note of the 23 September statement by the Quartet, the US, UN, EU and Russia, Ahamed said India hopes that the timelines indicated in the statement would be realized.
The statement had proposed that Israel and the Palestinians resume direct peace talks within a month with the goal of reaching a deal before the end of 2012.
Representatives from Israel and Palestine are set to meet separately on October 26 with the Quartet envoys to see how to proceed with the negotiations, which have been stalled since late September 2010.
Ahamed termed measures like prisoner exchange between Israel and Palestine as confidence building that could also help pave the way for an early and significant easing of restrictions on movement of goods and people into the Gaza Strip, helping address the dire humanitarian situation there.