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Israel returns ambassador to New Zealand, ending diplomatic rift
June 13, 2017 / 3:26 PM / 2 months ago

Israel returns ambassador to New Zealand, ending diplomatic rift

FILE PHOTO: Israeli policemen remove a pro-settlement activist from a house during an operation by Israeli forces to evict settlers from the illegal outpost of Amona in the occupied West Bank February 1, 2017.Ronen Zvulun/File Photo

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel said on Tuesday its ambassador to New Zealand will return to his post, ending a six-month rift in relations over a United Nations resolution against Israeli settlements on occupied territory which Palestinians seek for a state.

Israel recalled the ambassador in December after New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela and Senegal sponsored a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement activity .

New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the two leaders spoke on the phone earlier this week, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Michal Maayan said in a statement.

"I regret the damage done to Israel-New Zealand relations as a result of New Zealand proposing Resolution 2344 at the Security Council," English wrote, according to the Foreign Ministry statement.

The U.N. resolution passed in the 15-member Security Council because the United States, under the administration of former President Barack Obama, did not wield its veto power and instead abstained, breaking with its long-standing tradition of diplomatically shielding Israel at the international body.

Continued settlement building on land Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War and which Palestinians hope will eventually form part of an independent state has drawn criticism from the United Nations and most of the international community. Palestinians cite it as a major obstacle in now-stalled peace talks.

On June 4 Israel said it was returning its ambassador to Senegal, after recalling him over the U.N. Security Council resolution. Israel does not have diplomatic ties with Malaysia and Venezuela.

Maayan said the Israeli ambassador to New Zealand will return to Wellington in the next few days.

Reporting by Miriam Berger; Editing by Maayan Lubell

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