Talks with Netanyahu constructive, says Australian leader

Canberra, Feb 24 (IANS) Australia’s opposition leader Bill Shorten on Friday said he has held constructive talks with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about settlements in Palestinian territories.

Shorten, who heads Australia’s Labour Party, said he held clear and unambiguous discussions on the delicate issue of West Bank settlements with Netanyahu, and reiterated his support for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

“We want to see Israel safe and secure of its borders; we support the rights of the Palestinians people to have their own state,” the opposition leader said.

Shorten criticised Israel over its settlements, which he said were a “roadblock to peace”, Efe news reported.

Netanyahu arrived in Australia on Wednesday for a four-day tour, which included a meeting with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

As well as discussing political matters and closer bilateral trade, both leaders signed agreements on science and innovation.

Turnbull has shown his firm support of Netanyahu in the face of what he has termed “one-sided” resolutions by the UN against Israel for its settlement policy.

Netanyahu’s visit comes after the Israeli parliament approved a law to legalise some 4,000 houses built on land privately owned by Palestinians in West Bank settlements.

It also comes after US President Donald Trump, following a meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister, said he was open to a “one-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Following these statements, the UN reiterated its support of the creation of two states, a position also supported by the Australian government.

Ahead of Netanyahu’s visit, a group of 60 prominent Australians signed a statement, issued by the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, denouncing Israel’s failure to comply with UN demands to stop illegal settlements and abuses against Palestinians.