Swiss "concerned" over Jewish settlements

Switzerland has called on Israel to halt construction of Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territories.

This content was published on July 23, 2009

"The foreign ministry is deeply concerned over the destruction of houses near East Jerusalem's old town and the planned eviction of Palestinian families," a statement said.

East Jerusalem is an integral part of the Palestinian territories and under international humanitarian law Israel must protect the local civilian population, the statement added.

"From a military point of view there is no need to justify the demolition of the houses and the eviction of Palestinian families," the ministry said.

The foreign ministry also added the settlement policy was not compatible with efforts to find a lasting global solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestinians.

Wednesday's appeal by Switzerland is in line with similar statements by the United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, the European Union and Russia.

The United States and France summoned the Israeli ambassadors to Washington and Paris, respectively, in the past few days.

Switzerland has come under criticism by leading Israeli newspapers that accuse Switzerland of violating its self-imposed neutrality and supporting the Islamic Palestinian Hamas movement.

Three weeks ago Swiss diplomats met a senior Hamas leader in Geneva for talks.
The rightwing Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, described Swiss neutrality as "a swindle".

However, Jean-Daniel Ruch, a Swiss foreign ministry special envoy for the Middle East, dismissed those allegations.

"Being neutral means we are not part of a military alliance, but it does not exclude a policy of dialogue [with both sides in a conflict] – a longstanding Swiss tradition," Ruch is quoted in Thursday's edition of the Blick newspaper.

Urs Geiser, and agencies

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