King Hussein urges Israel to halt settlements

Forwarded message: From: (Issa Sarras)

GENEVA, June 13 (Reuter) - Jordan's King Hussein called on Israel on Friday to halt its ``policies of settlement, land confiscation and demographic manipulation,'' saying they endangered hopes of achieving peace in the Middle East. Hussein, in a speech to the annual International Labour Conference in Geneva, also said that under any peace agreement, Jerusalem should be an ``open city'' whose final status would be determined by the Palestinian Authority and the Jewish state. Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and declared all of the holy city its ``eternal and indivisible'' capital. The PLO wants East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state and the issue of Jewish settlement-building in the city has plunged Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking into crisis. Jordan had fulfilled its obligations under its peace treaty with Israel in 1994, and would continue to work for the achievement of peace, the monarch told some 2,000 delegates at the annual talks of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). ``What is required now, for the continuation of the peace process, is a complete cessation of disconcerting policies and practices that contradict international legitimacy, such as the policies of settlement, land confiscation and demographic manipulation,'' he said. Jerusalem ought to become ``an open city, constituting in its eastern and western parts a capital of both Palestine and Israel, or in any such manner that the Palestinian and Israeli parties may -- within the parameters of the rules of international law -- agree upon in negotiating a final status settlement,'' he added. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has proposed moving immediately into so-called final-status talks that would tackle issues such as Jewish settlements and the future of Jerusalem. But Palestinians, who have accused the right-wing leader of trying to avoid handing back more occupied land under interim peace deals, have demanded that Netanyahu stop the East Jerusalem project before full-fledged talks can resume. Hussein is on a four-nation European tour to Netherlands, France, Switzerland and Britain to hold talks on the Middle East peace process and economic aid to his kingdom. His last leg will be a private visit to Britain which tentatively includes plans for the king's first meeting with new British Prime Minister Tony Blair.