Rice praises negotiations, condemns settlements

Rice praises negotiations, condemns settlements

JERUSALEM ““ Condoleezza Rice praised Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiations as “serious” and “intensive,” and condemned Israeli settlement activity.

The U.S. Secretary of State made the comments to reporters following a meeting Tuesday morning with Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. She met earlier for breakfast with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. She later met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Rice was scheduled to meet later with Palestinian chief negotiator Ahmad Qureia and to hold a three-way meeting with Livni and Queria.

Rice and Livni also addressed the issue of Jewish construction in the west bank, which made headlines Tuesday after the release of a Peace Now report which shows that settlement construction has doubled during 2008.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, left, meets with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Aug. 26, 2008 in the west bank city of Ramallah. Photo by Omar Rashidi/PPO/BPH Images

“I think that is no secret and I’ve said it my Israeli counterparts that I don’t think the settlement activity is helpful to the process, that in fact what we need now are steps that enhance confidence between the parties and that anything that undermines confidence between the parties ought to be avoided,” Rice said. “At the end of the day the Israeli government’s policy is not to expand settlements, not to build new settlements, and not to confiscate Palestinian land,” Livni said.

In a news conference with Livni, Abbas said that settlement construction is the main obstacle to peace. He said that the Palestinians will work toward a comprehensive solution. JTA