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G8, Quartet Demand Settlement Freeze

Jun. 26, 2009 staff and AP

Both the G-8 and the Middle East Quartet - the United States, Russia, European Union and United Nations - urged Israel to freeze all settlement activity on Friday.

The call included a freeze of "natural growth" construction, with the quartet also urging the Israeli government to dismantle settlement outposts erected since March 2001.

The meetings took place in Italy, as foreign ministers of the Group of Eight countries met to discuss various issues - mainly recent events in Iran.

G8 nations also called on Israelis and Palestinians to renew direct negotiations over all disputed issues.

US Mideast envoy George Mitchell and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon were among the participants at the Quartet meeting.

A range of Arab League nations will join a follow-on session Friday afternoon. Israel was not invited, but the Italian Foreign Ministry said that the decision was made by the Quartet, not Italy.

On Thursday, former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams insisted that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was wrong in saying that the Bush administration's tacit agreements with Israel on construction in the settlements did not exist.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday squarely called for a complete halt to the construction during a meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Paris. The prime minister reiterated that Israel would not build any new settlements or expropriate land to expand existing ones, but at the same time would allow for natural growth to let Jewish residents of the West Bank live normal lives.

AP contributed to this report.

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