Mideast quartet talks tough over Israeli settlements

Meeting in Moscow, the quartet of international Middle East peace mediators issued a tough statement, saying it condemned Israeli settlement expansion.

It also said it was deeply concerned about what it called the deterioration of the humanitarian and human rights situation in Gaza.

As the Russian Foreign Minister was telling reporters that the quartet would do all it can to push for indirect peace talks, events on the ground were a stark reminder of how difficult that will be.

After a Palestinian rocket attack on Israel killed a farm worker from Thailand, at least half a dozen targets in Gaza were hit by Israeli airstrikes.

The quartet’s demand for Israel to freeze its settlement activity has been welcomed by the Palestinian Authority.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said it was a very important statement, but “the most important thing is that Israel must comply if the peace process is to resume”. “

“Settlements and Jerusalem are the main obstacles,” he continued.

The Israeli foreign minister quickly rejected the statement from the quartet on settlement expansion, and the call for a Palestinian state within 24 months.

However, the US Secretary of State has hinted that Israel’s Prime Minister is willing to address some of the concern voiced about new settlement building.