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'Immediate end of Israeli occupation needed for peace'

Ramallah,  A senior Palestinian official said an immediate end of the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories was needed to make peace.

Hussein al-Sheikh, Minister of Civil Affairs, made the remarks on Saturday in response to Israeli Defensce Minister Benny Gantz's proposal to start peace talks with the Palestinians on the basis of US President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan, reports Xinhua news agency.

"The one, who says he is willing to visit Ramallah and hold peace talks with the Palestinians, must think first of ending the occupation instead of deploying his soldiers for annexation and occupation," said al-Sheikh, also a member of the central committee of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party.

"He (Gantz) should believe first in the international legitimacy and not in the legitimacy of force and imposing apartheid on other people," added the Palestinian minister who is close to Abbas.

In a Facebook post on Friday, Gantz said he was ready to visit Ramallah if the Palestinians ask for peace talks.

"If they request to have serious negotiations, I'm ready to be in Ramallah tomorrow morning to discuss this," Gantz said.

The last Israeli-Palestinian peace talks broke down in 2014, mainly because of their deep divisions on the issues of the Jewish settlements and Jerusalem.

The resumption of peace talks has hit a roadblock since Trump declared Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in late 2017 and moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the disputed holy city in mid-2018.

Israel considers the entire Jerusalem as its eternal capital, a fact that is rejected by the Palestinians, who insist that East Jerusalem be the capital of their future independent state.

The Israeli government is planning to annex more than 30 per cent of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley, as well as imposing sovereignty on several settlements in the territory.

The tension between the two sides has mounted since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that his annexation plan will start on July 1.
 

(IANS)

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