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EU members condemn Israel for new settlement building

EU’s Ashton ‘deeply regrets’ new settlement building

European Union foreign policy chief criticizes decision to build 1,213 new homes in east Jerusalem; says move ‘threatens two-state solution’

By AFP/Ynet
November 11, 2012

European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton on Thursday criticized Israel for offering tenders this week for the construction of 1,213 new homes in east Jerusalem.

Ashton said in a statement that she “deeply regrets” moves to add 607 units in Pisgat Zeev and 606 units in Ramot.

“Settlements are illegal under international law and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible,” it said.

Israel’s building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem is one of the most contentious issues of stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and led to direct negotiations being put on hold in September 2010.

“During 2011 and 2012 the EU High Representative has expressed her profound disappointment on a number of occasions concerning the expansion of nearby Har Homa settlement. Together these developments continue the process of separating East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory,” the statement added.

“Continuous expansion of settlements, wherever this takes place, further complicates ongoing diplomatic efforts to avoid deterioration in the prospects for a return to negotiations at this critical time,” Ashton said.

“The EU has repeatedly urged the Government of Israel to immediately end all settlement activities in the West Bank, including in east Jerusalem, in line with its obligations under the Roadmap.”

The statement continues: “The European Union maintains that negotiations continue to represent the best way forward in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Continuous expansion of settlements makes this all the more difficult.”

The Palestinians say they will not hold talks while Israel builds on land they want for their future state, while Israel says it wants negotiations without preconditions.

The number of settlers in the West Bank has grown to around 340,000, with another 200,000 living in east Jerusalem.

European powers criticize Israel’s decision to move ahead with new settler homes

By Frank Jordans,  AP/The Province
November 07, 2012

BERLIN – Germany, Britain and France criticized Israel on Wednesday over its decision to go ahead with the construction of more than 1,200 new homes for Jewish settlers in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The three European powers warned that the move could jeopardize efforts to restart the Mideast peace process. Palestinians regard the areas where the homes will be built as part of their future independent homeland.

“Our clear expectation of all sides in the Middle East is that they refrain from anything that will make the resumption of negotiations more difficult,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a statement, calling Israel’s settlement policy “a hindrance to the peace process.”

A senior British diplomat said Israel’s move was “provocative” and “deeply disappointing.”

“The UK has been consistently clear that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and by altering the situation on the ground are making the two state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, increasingly hard to realize,” British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said.

France joined the criticism, saying the announcement came “in what is an already tense situation.”

“It erodes the building of trust between the sides and constitutes an obstacle to a just peace, based on a two-state solution,” the Foreign Ministry in Paris said.

Last week, during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Paris, French President Francois Hollande highlighted the importance of Israel stopping settlement building.

Israel’s government announcement Tuesday is seen as a signal to the Palestinians that they should consider the possible consequences of asking the U.N. General Assembly later this month to upgrade their status to non-member observer state.

The 193-member General Assembly is dominated by countries sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and the petition for a status upgrade is assured. Last year, the Palestinians failed to receive the necessary approval from the U.N. Security Council for their bid to become a full member state.

Israel insists the settlements issue will be resolved when borders are defined through negotiations. Unlike the Palestinians and the rest of the international community, it claims annexed east Jerusalem as part of its capital and does not consider the Jewish areas there to be settlements.

More than 500,000 Israelis have moved to the West Bank and east Jerusalem since Israel capturing those territories and Gaza in 1967. Israel withdrew soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005, but still controls access by air, sea and land, except for a crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

Thomas Adamson in Paris contributed to this report.

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