Monday 22 December 2008

Britain steps up fight against West Bank settlements

The British government is stepping up measures against settlements in the West Bank in an effort to stop their further expansion.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown recently instructed the Foreign Office to issue a warning to British citizens against the purchase of houses and real estate in the settlements.

Other measures recently imposed by London on West Bank settlements include tying the upgrade of relations between the European Union and Israel to the cessation of construction in the settlements in the West Bank and putting special labels on products denoting that they were made in West Bank settlements.

On December 9th, Brown sent a personal letter to the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, Salam Fayad. Haaretz has obtained a copy of the letter in which Brown states his government is examining a number of methods aimed at preventing the further expansion of settlements.

"We have long expressed our opposition to settlement activity," Brown wrote. "But that activity has continued and has accelerated since the Annapolis process was launched. I share your frustration at this. The UK is now looking at what effective action we can take to discourage settlement expansion."

Britain is effectively encouraging divestment from companies based or working in cooperation with business in the Jewish West Bank settlements. In his letter to Fayad, the British premier wrote that companies owned by his government have no financial ties to the settlements.

Brown discussed Britain's latest step against the settlements in his letter to Fayad.

"I have already asked officials to update our official travel advice to include a specific warning that potential purchasers of property in a settlement should consider that a future peace agreement could have consequences for that property," Brown wrote.

Jerusalem is said to be furious over Downing Street's decision to label products made in West Bank settlements. Britain has responded by saying that some companies based in the West Bank have been using false addresses within Israel proper in order to avoid its products from being labeled.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert confronted Brown over the issue during their meeting on Tuesday, saying that Britain was violating an agreement signed with the European Union when he was minister of infrastructure in 2005.

"I signed that agreement despite the criticism and political price in Israel," he said. "There is no justification for what you are now doing. During my time as prime minister no new settlements have been built and you know it."

Source: Haaretz

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