EU alarmed by Israel settlement plans

Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The so-called 'Middle East Quartet' of the European Union, the United States, Russia and the United Nations yesterday (16 August) signalled their alarm over Israel's latest announcements of new settlement plans.

Israel announced on Monday (15 August) that approval had been granted to build 277 homes in a West Bank settlement, despite US and international pressure to curb expansion on occupied land and Palestinian preparations for a statehood bid at the United Nations.

"The Quartet is greatly concerned by Israel's recent announcements to advance planning for new housing units in Ariel and East Jerusalem," the mediating group said in a joint statement.

The Quartet added that "unilateral action by either party [Israel or the Palestinians] […] will not be recognised by the international community".

"Jerusalem in particular is one of the core issues that must be resolved through negotiations between the parties, which underscores the urgent need for the parties to resume serious and substantive talks," the group said.

It added that resuming bilateral peace talks was "the only way to a just and durable solution to the conflict".

The United States said on Monday that it found reports of new Israeli settlement building plans "deeply troubling" and counter-productive to Washington's efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

For months the Quartet members have been negotiating a statement to push reluctant Palestinians to return to the negotiating table with the Israelis, despite their anger at Israel's refusal to halt settlement activity on occupied territories that the Palestinians want for a future Palestinian state.

So far, diplomats say, the Quartet members have been unable to reach a consensus due to disagreements about the framework for any resumption of stalled talks between the two sides.

Further complicating matters, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has announced that he would present an application for UN membership for the state of Palestine to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in September.

Palestinian officials have presented the plan as a move towards levelling the playing field with Israel in future negotiations. The Palestinians began talks with Israel two decades ago with the aim of establishing an independent state.

Israel has condemned the UN bid as an attempt to isolate it and undermine the legitimacy of its own statehood. Washington is also opposed to the Palestinian UN membership bid.

EURACTIV with Reuters

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