British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said on Tuesday he deplored Israel's decision to approve construction of 50 new homes at a West Bank settlement in defiance of a US call for a settlement freeze.
"Settlements are illegal under international law and they are a major blockage to peace in the Middle East on the basis of a two-state solution," Miliband told parliament.
"There are reports coming through of the Israeli Ministry of Defense yesterday granting permission for 50 new housing units at the Adam settlement which is something that we completely deplore," he said.
"This is the worst possible time for new settlements to be initiated or for construction to be started," he said. "We are at an absolutely vital moment as the new American administration comes to a decision about how it will prosecute its commitment to a two-state solution."
Earlier Tuesday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell in Washington. Barak told Mitchell that Israel was willing to consider "any positive contribution to the peace efforts."
Following the talks Barak and the US envoy agreed to set up a meeting between Mitchell and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The defense minister did not say whether he and Mitchell managed to reach an understanding on the issue of settlement freeze, but stated: "We weren't stuck on the subject of the settlements and we're not stuck now. We're continuing the dialogue in order to reach understandings.
"The meeting was conducted in a very good atmosphere, despite the differences," he added.
Yitzhak Benhorin contributed to the report