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Israel, New Zealand restore ties after months of diplomatic spat

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and his New Zealand counterpart, Bill English
The Tel Aviv regime and New Zealand have agreed to end a six-month rift in relations sparked by Wellington’s backing of a United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 against Israeli settlements.
A statement from the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that he and his New Zealand counterpart, Bill English, had decided to end the dispute following a phone conversation.
Israel’s ambassador to New Zealand will return to Wellington, the statement added.
Last December, Israel recalled its ambassadors from a number of countries, including New Zealand, due to their support for Resolution 2334, which was approved in the Security Council by a vote of 14-0 with the US abstaining.
The resolution states that Israel’s establishment of settlements in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem al-Quds, “had no legal validity, constituting a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the vision of [the so-called] two states.”
It also demands that “Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem [al-Quds]."
The picture taken on April 16, 2017 shows a general view of the Israeli settlement of Ateret west of the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. (By AFP)
Additionally on Tuesday, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Michal Maayan said in a statement that the New Zealand premier had sent a letter to Netanyahu after the phone conversation.
"I regret the damage done to Israel-New Zealand relations as a result of New Zealand proposing Resolution 2344 at the Security Council," Maayan quoted English as saying.
However, New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee stressed that the letter did not amount to an apology, saying, “We’re not apologizing for anything.”
Meanwhile, New Zealand’s opposition Green Party lawmaker Kennedy Graham accused English of being motivated by trade rather than principle.
“It shows a lack of moral strength from Bill English to waver on a legitimate, principled stance as soon as a country like Israel throws its weight around,” he said.
Last month, Ynetnews website reported that the Israeli Foreign Ministry had appealed to US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley to nullify the UN resolution.
Since the inauguration of US President Donald Trump in January, Tel Aviv has stepped up its settlement construction activities in the occupied lands in a blatant violation of international law and in defiance of Resolution 2334.
About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built illegally since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian territories.
The continued expansion of Israeli settlements is one of the major obstacles to the establishment of peace in the Middle East.

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