United Nations

Israel condemned over settlement expansion programme

Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem would end hopes for a two-state peace deal, says UN chief

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 December, 2012, 6:09am


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Paris and London called in Israel's envoys for consultations yesterday as the Jewish state faced mounting diplomatic pressure over plans to build 3,000 settler homes in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Germany and Russia also raised concerns about the Israeli plans, which the UN chief warned could wipe out peace hopes.

Israel has faced a wave of top-level diplomatic protests after the construction proposals emerged on Friday as payback for the Palestinians winning the rank of a UN non-member observer state.

Some of the construction is to take place in a controversial corridor of land east of Jerusalem, called E1, where new settlements could effectively cut the West Bank in two.

In Paris, foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said Israeli ambassador Yossi Gal had been summoned so France could express its "grave concern" over the settlements plan.

"Construction in the E1 area would seriously undermine the two-state solution by isolating Jerusalem … from the West Bank and threatening the territorial contiguity and viability of a future Palestinian state," Lalliot said.

The Israeli embassy said Gal had "clarified the Israeli position by explaining that it was impossible to expect Israel to stand idly by after the unilateral Palestinian move at the UN".

Britain's Foreign Office said it had called in Ambassador Daniel Taub to express its concerns and urged Israel to reconsider the settlement plans.

Germany for its part said it was "deeply concerned" about the settlement plans but would not "for the moment" summon its ambassador to Berlin.

Russia also urged Israel to rethink its plans, saying the settlement project "will negatively affect efforts to restart direct talks".

London and Paris rejected reports, however, that they were planning the unprecedented step of recalling their ambassadors to Israel over the plans.

Palestinians bitterly oppose the E1 project, as it would effectively cut the occupied West Bank in two, north to south, and sever it from Jerusalem, making the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state almost impossible.

Washington and Brussels also raised concerns about the settlements plan and on Sunday UN chief Ban Ki-moon issued a strongly worded warning.

"Settlements are illegal under international law and, should the E1 settlement be constructed, it would represent an almost fatal blow to remaining chances of securing a two-state solution," Ban said.