United Nations: Offering its support in achieving peace in the Middle East, India has asked Israel to stop settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories and release the tax revenue to the Palestinian Authority.
   
Noting that the Middle East region is home to nearly five million Indians and is an important source for India's energy needs, India's Ambassador to the UN Hardeep Singh Puri said "as a nation with age-old historic and cultural ties with the Middle East, India has an abiding interest in the early resolution of all pending issues that have troubled the region since the inception of the UN".
   
Puri described the continuing settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories as the "biggest stumbling block to direct negotiations" between Palestine and Israel.
   
"We call upon Israel to stop settlement activities. This will facilitate resumption of negotiations in which all Final Status issues should be addressed," he said in a statement at the UN Security Council on Wednesday on the 'situation in the Middle East'.
   
Puri called on Israel to release the tax revenue to the Palestinian Authority, which is already facing severe shortage of funds.
   
"Equally important is the implementation of reconciliation agreement between Palestinian factions leading to formation of a unity government".
   
Referring to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's remark at the General Assembly that societies cannot be reordered from outside through military force, Puri told the UNSC that "India is ready to play a supportive role in this collective endeavour to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East".

(Agencies)