Ban asks Israel to extend freeze on settlements

Ban asks Israel to extend freeze on settlements United Nations: Welcoming the United States brokered direct peace talks between Israel and Palestine, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday asked Israel to extend a settlement freeze in West Bank to facilitate the negotiations.

"I urge again on Monday that this moratorium should be extended so that there should be no hurdles so that the parties to the negotiations can continue their dialogue on the basis of mutual respect and the very favourable political climate," Ban said.

Palestinian has indicated at an end to the peace talks if Israel does not extend the moratorium on settlements, which expires on September 26.

Last week, US President Barack Obama also asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to extend his government's moratorium on West Bank settlement building.

"What I've said to Prime Minister Netanyahu is that given, so far, the talks are moving forward in a constructive way, it make sense to extend that moratorium so long as the talks are moving in a constructive way," he said.

Yesterday, Netanyahu indicated that he was willing to limit, though not completely halt, construction in the West Bank settlements but the Palestinians have not yet accepted this compromise.

At the end of the settlement moratorium, 13,000 housing units can be built without further government approval - of which 2,000 for immediate construction, according to Peace Now, an advocacy group that opposes Israel’s settlement activity.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew to the Middle East on Monday to attend the next round of talks, which were kicked off in Washington earlier this month.

"Both leaders recognise that there may not ever be another chance," she said, recently at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Meanwhile, the General Assembly head, Ali Treki, expressed concern at the "desecration" of the ancient Muslim cemetery of Mamilla in Jerusalem, which the Israeli authorities have argued contain hundreds of fraudulent tombstones.

"The President of the General Assembly is alarmed by the intent of erecting secular projects on the site of this holy sanctuary, which is the burial place of venerated religious figures for more than fourteen centuries," read a statement issued on Monday.