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U.N. chief frustrated with ongoing Israel construction

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By The Associated Press
Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013, 7:39 p.m.

RAMALLAH, West Bank — U.N. Secretary-General Ban-Ki moon said on Thursday that he is “deeply troubled” by Israeli settlement building and that it could prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.

A day earlier, Israelis and Palestinians began formal talks on the terms of a Palestinian state, ending a five-year freeze. The talks were overshadowed by recent Israeli announcements on promoting plans for more than 3,000 new settlement apartments.

The Palestinians want a state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967. Israel has built dozens of settlements there that are home to more than half a million Israelis and are deemed illegal by most of the international community.

“I am deeply troubled by Israel's continuing settlement activity in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem,” Ban said, speaking at a news conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. “The settlement activity is deepening the Palestinian people's mistrust in the seriousness on the Israeli side toward achieving peace. It will ultimately render a two-state solution impossible.”

The five-year break in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations was largely because of a dispute over settlements. Abbas insisted on a settlement freeze as a condition for talks. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the demand, arguing that all issues should be raised in negotiations with the Palestinians.

Under U.S. pressure, Abbas eventually agreed to return to talks without a settlement freeze, though Abbas aides have said the Obama administration assured them it would try to restrain Israeli construction.

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