10 March 2010Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has repeatedly called for Israel’s settlement construction to come to a halt, has condemned its announcement that it is building 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem. “He reiterates that settlements are illegal under international law,” according to a statement by his spokesperson issued last night in New York.“Furthermore, he underscores that settlement activity is contrary to Israel’s obligations under the Roadmap, and undermines any movement towards a viable peace process,” it added.The Roadmap, endorsed by the diplomatic Quartet comprising the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia, calls for two States – Israel and Palestine – living side by side in peace and security.Yesterday, Israel’s Interior Ministry announced that it has approved plans to build 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem.“Unfortunately, the decisions that have been taken in the past few days are not helpful… to build a climate of trust,” Filippo Grandi, the new Commissioner General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), told reporters in New York today.The Secretary-General noted last month that while Israel’s efforts and willingness to resume peace talks are welcome, returning to negotiations is hampered by developments on the ground, including continued settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territory.“At this crucial juncture, Israel should refrain from taking steps which have the potential to prejudge negotiations and create tensions,” especially in East Jerusalem, where settlements are expanding and Palestinians are being evicted, he stressed in a message to the UN-backed International Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace held in Qawra, Malta.
At the meeting of its executive board last week, the Executive Board of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) approved US$8.3 million in grants to support farmers, farmers’ organizations, agricultural research and training programmes, along with $102 million in loans for rural development programmes.The loan of $29.2 million to China, for example, assists farmers living in remote areas of South Gansu province, where natural resources have deteriorated and there is only poor access to water for irrigation and drinking. The programme which will receive the funds will support irrigation, terracing, tree-planting and training toward improved farming methods.Another loan, of $19 million, aims to improve the lives of small farmers, traders and processors in Ghana who depend on roots and tubers for their livelihood. With women making up at least one-half of the beneficiaries, the programme will focus on both better production and marketing methods.The $8.1 million in grants are targeted to a wide range of programmes, including those supporting assistance to rural organizations in the countries of the Southern Cone Common Market of South America (MERCOSUR), improved management of indigenous trees and shrubs in the countries of the Sahel, and agricultural research and training in Eastern and Central Africa.