Saudi Arabia chides U.S. for vetoing UN resolution on Israeli settlements 21Feb11 February 22, 2011

Haaretz -  21 February 2011

Saudi Arabia voiced regret on Monday over a U.S. veto of a U.N. resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank, in a rare criticism of Washington by its close Arab ally.

“The council [of ministers] expressed regret on behalf of the kingdom over America’s use of its veto right against the Palestinian-Arab resolution condemning Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands,” said a cabinet statement carried by the state news agency SPA.

The United States on Friday vetoed a draft U.N. Security Council resolution which described the settlements as “illegal” and urged Israel to halt all settlement activities “immediately and completely”.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, is a close ally of the United States.

The kingdom, the birthplace of Islam, sees itself as a defender of Palestinian rights. In 2002, it proposed a peace initiative that calls for full Arab recognition of Israel if it gives up lands occupied in the 1967 Six-Day War and accepts a solution for Palestinian refugees.

The first veto to be cast by President Barack Obama’s administration came after appeals by Washington failed to persuade Palestinian leaders to withdraw the draft or accept a non-binding motion.

U.S.-brokered peace talks collapsed last year after Israel refused to extend a moratorium on West Bank settlements.

The Palestinians say continued building flouts the internationally backed peace plan that will allow them to create a viable, contiguous state on the land captured by Israel in 1967.

Israel says this is an excuse for avoiding peace talks and a precondition never demanded before during 17 years of negotiation, which has so far produced no agreement.

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