WASHINGTON – US State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki responded Wednesday to Israel's
of building 1,500 units in east Jerusalem saying "We do not consider continued settlement activity or east Jerusalem construction to be steps that create a positive environment for the negotiations."
At no time in the course of pursuing negotiations toward a two-state solution have we condoned settlement activity or east Jerusalem construction," she added.
Psaki stressed the importance of the peace talks and the need to resolve the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. She added that releasing prisoners
is a difficult but necessary step to guarantee an agreement.
The State Department Spokesperson also addressed prisoner release, saying it "is a difficult but necessary step to help ensure the success of talks. There are steps that have been taken by both sides in that regard. The talks are continuing, and they – both sides remain committed to the nine-month time frame."
She noted that US Secretary of State John Kerry
"has expressed his concerns and his issue with settlements and construction in east Jerusalem on many times in the past to Prime Minister Netanyahu, and I'm sure he will in the future, as well. But the reason why we want to have talks and the reason why it's so important they move forward is to resolve these types of issues."
As for the progress of the negotiations, she said there was "certainly is a difference than where we were a couple of years ago."
Earlier Wednesday, the State announced plans to build hundreds of new settlement homes.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
and Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar recently agreed to advance four construction plans in different parts of Jerusalem. One of the plans will see an additional 1,500 housing units built in the city's Ramat Shlomo neighborhood.
Jordan's Information Minister Mohammad Al-Momani fiercely condemned Israel's decision to build 1,500 housing units past the Green Line. He said that Israel's decision is a direct threat to the peace process, defying the will of the international community and international decision related to the conflict.
He said the Israeli method only serves extremism and violence. UN Chief Ban ki-Moon also opposed the decision.
Following the announcement, the Palestinian Authority said Israel's plans to build 1,500 new settler homes in east Jerusalem after freeing 26 Palestinian prisoners is destroying the peace process.
On Tuesday night, 26 Palestinian prisoners left Israeli prisons, as part of an Israeli gesture to the Palestinian Authority in light of the resumption of peace talks.
Reuters, Roi Kais contributed to this article
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