WASHINGTON (CN) – World leaders on Friday denounced Israel’s construction plans in East Jerusalem for the second time in a week. “The annexation of East Jerusalem is not recognized by the international community,” said the group that includes the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union.
The powerful group also said Israelis and Palestinians should agree to a two-state solution on a relatively speedy time table — within two years. The group of four also called for indirect talks between the two regions in a joint statement that ended a two-day meeting in Moscow.
“The Quartet believes these negotiations should lead to a settlement negotiated between the parties within 24 months that ends the occupation which began in 1967 and results in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel,” the joint-statement reads.
It called a two-state solution a “fundamental interest” to all parties in the region and to the international community.
Taking a balanced tone, the group said it “urges” Israel to stop all settlement activity, but also condemned continued rocket-fire from Gaza and reiterated its call for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
It also acknowledged indications that Israel would lift blockades on some goods going to Palestine, allowing the United Nations to head water and sanitation projects, and housing projects.
When asked whether the United States still thinks Israel’s announcement of a large new housing project in East Jerusalem during U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s visit was “insulting,” State Secretary Hillary Clinton only responded that the relationship between Israel and the United States is “strong and enduring.”
The United Nations voted in 1947 to divide Palestine to create a Jewish state, an Arab state, and an UN-controlled Jerusalem. Jewish leaders agreed, but the Arabs did not, resulting in a civil war. Israel declared independence in 1948 and neighboring Arab states attacked the next day, but were defeated. Subsequent conflict has expanded the amount of territory claimed and occupied by Israel, and territorial disputes continue.
During the Six-Day War in 1967, which is referenced in the statement, Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan, as well as the Gaza Strip from Egypt.