Germany's chancellor is reassuring Israel of her nation's unwavering commitment to the country's security.
Angela Merkel's said in her weekly podcast released Saturday that peace talks with the Palestinians toward a two-state solution should be resumed as soon as possible. She addes "Germany will always stand by Israel" when it comes to guaranteeing its safety.
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Merkel's message comes two days after Israel suffered a symbolic defeat when an overwhelming majority of United Nations member states endorsed an independent state of Palestine, implicitly backing demands for sovereignty over lands Israel occupied in 1967.
A day later, Israel lashed out in response by approving plans to build the 3,000 settler homes beyond the Green Line.
Har Homa neighborhood in Jerusalem (Archives: Ido Erez)
Germany, which many currently consider to be Israel's closest European ally, abstained in the vote, which irked both Israel and the Palestinians.
Merkel will hold talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday in Berlin.
UK blasts settlement plan
The UK, meanwhile, urged Israel to reverse its settlement construction plan, saying the response undermines peace efforts.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was "extremely concerned" by the move.
"The UK strongly advises the Israeli government to reverse this decision," Hague said.
"The window for a two-state solution is closing, and we need urgent efforts by the parties and by the international community to achieve a return to negotiations, not actions which will make that harder."
He added: "If implemented, these plans (for new settlements) would alter the situation on the ground on a scale that makes the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, increasingly difficult to achieve."
Britain abstained from Thursday's UN General Assembly vote as well, saying that it wanted the Palestinians to unconditionally agree to negotiations on a lasting two-state deal with Israel.
Also on Saturday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius urged Israel to "refrain" from carrying out the plan to build 3,000 housing units in settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.
"I call on the Israeli authorities to refrain from any such decision and assert their willingness to resume negotiations," Fabius said in a statement.
Reuters and AFP contributed to the report
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