Israeli PM urged to return Palestinian money

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has called on Israel`s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hand over tax payments owed to the Palestinian Authority and to stop settlement activity in the occupied territories.

United Nations: UN chief Ban Ki-moon has
called on Israel`s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hand over tax payments owed to the Palestinian Authority and to stop settlement activity in the occupied territories, his
spokesman said.

The UN secretary general "stressed the need to
de-escalate" Israeli-Palestinian tensions that have heightened since the Palestinian bid to become a member of the United Nations, said spokesman Martin Nesirky, giving an account of telephone talks between Ban and Netanyahu yesterday.

After UNESCO agreed to accept the Palestinian Authority
last month, Israel withheld payments of VAT and customs
revenues that it collects on behalf of the Palestinian
Authority. The UN estimates about USD 100 million a month is
involved.

Israel also announced new approvals for settlements in the
Palestinian territories.

"The secretary general appealed to Prime Minister
Netanyahu to immediately resume the transfer of Palestinian
tax and customs revenues, in line with Israel`s legal
obligations," said Nesirky.

"He also expressed his deep concern about Israel`s
announcement of further settlement expansions, including in
East Jerusalem, which undermine current peace efforts and
violate international law."

Ban said Israel had to contribute to efforts to ease tensions "to create an environment conducive for the resumption of direct negotiations."

Talks between the two sides have been halted since
September last year when Israel ended a moratorium on
construction in the occupied territories.

The diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East -- the United
States, European Union, Russia and United Nations -- launched
a new bid to hold talks on September 23 when Palestinian
president Mahmud Abbas made his application to join the UN.
International envoys have struggled to bridge the gap between
the two sides however.

In his talks with Netanyahu, Ban welcomed Israel`s
approval of new UN construction projects worth USD 5.5 million
in Gaza "while calling for further measures towards lifting
the closure" of the territory, Nesirky said.

PTI

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