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U.N.'s Guterres: Israeli settlements a 'major obstacle' to two-state solution

By Danielle Haynes
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U.N.'s Guterres: Israeli settlements a 'major obstacle' to two-state solution
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres holds a joint press conference with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Ramallah, West Bank, on Tuesday. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 29 (UPI) -- U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday said Israel's settlement activities in Palestinian lands was a "major obstacle" to achieving a peaceful two-state solution.

Guterres traveled to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to discuss Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory.

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"It is my deep belief that it is essential to restart a serious and credible political process of negotiation aiming at that objective -- the two-state solution -- as it is also important to create conditions on the ground to improve the situation of Palestinian populations," Guterres said during a joint news conference with Hamdallah.

He said a two-state solution is the only way to guarantee the establishment of peace in the region.

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"There is no plan B to the two-state solution," he said.

Guterres visited with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem one day earlier. During their news conference, Netanyahu criticized the way the United Nations has treated his country.

"There is no question that we've had a troubled relationship with the U.N.," be said. "I think it has an absurd obsession with Israel, flagrantly discriminatory tactics."

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Guterres told Netanyahu his views on Israel settlements.

"I dream that I will have the chance to see in the Holy Land two states able to live together in mutual recognition, but also in peace and security," he said.

In May, UNESCO, the body's cultural agency, passed a resolution that criticized Israel's actions in occupied Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

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In July, UNESCO listed the Old City of Hebron in West Bank as an endangered Palestinian world heritage site. In return, Netanyahu slashed the U.N. membership contribution by $10 million.

Although Guterres said he does not always agree with the country's policies, he said those who call for Israel's destruction are involved a "form of modern anti-Semitism."

He vowed to curb all forms of racism and bigotry.

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President Reuven Rivlin, who met with the U.N. leader at the president's residence, said that Israel is pleased with his "brave leadership" in fighting discrimination against the Jewish state in the United Nations.

"No member state in the UN should be allowed to behave like that," he said. "These actions weaken cooperation between states and are against the rule of law."

Guterres noted the U.N. charter values impartiality. "And impartiality means treating all state equally, and I am totally committed to that in my action and in everything I can do for the organization I lead," he said.

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Guterres, who arrived in Tel Aviv on Sunday, plans to travel to the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is visiting Turkey, is not expected to meet Guterres during the trip.

Guterres' trip to the Mideast is his first since taking office at the start of the year.

Allen Cone contributed to this report.

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