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UN Security Council postpones vote on halting Israeli settlements

AFP file photo | An Israeli soldier scuffles with a Palestinian journalist at a protest against Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

The UN Security Council on Thursday postponed a vote on a draft resolution demanding that Israel halt its settlement activities in the Palestinian territories and east Jerusalem, diplomats said.

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Egypt requested the delay to allow time for consultations on the measure, but no new time or date was scheduled, according to diplomats. Egypt circulated a draft late on Wednesday.

A similar resolution was vetoed by the United States in 2011 and it remained uncertain if the measure would be adopted this time.

The United Nations maintains that settlements are illegal and has repeatedly called on Israel to halt them, but UN officials have reported a surge in construction over the past months.

The draft resolution demanded that "Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem".

Israeli settlements are seen as major stumbling block to peace efforts as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.

The draft states that Israeli settlements are "dangerously imperiling the viability of the two-state solution" that would see an independent state of Palestine co-exist alongside Israel.

It stresses that halting settlements was "essential for salvaging the two-state solution, and calls for affirmative steps to be taken immediately to reverse the negative trends on the ground".

The measure calls for "immediate steps" to prevent acts of violence against civilians, but does not specifically single out the Palestinians to stop incitement, as demanded by Israel.

UN diplomats have for weeks speculated as to whether the administration of US President Barack Obama would decide to refrain from using its veto to block a draft resolution condemning Israel.

Obama's administration has expressed mounting anger over Israeli settlement policy and speculation has grown that he could launch a final initiative before leaving.

Israel last month revived plans to build 500 new homes for Jewish settlers in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, after Donald Trump won the US presidential election.

Trump had called on Obama to veto the resolution.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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