EU: Construction in Gilo 'settlement' threatens two-state solution
Swedish Presidency of the EU calls Israel's plan to build hundreds of new housing units in Jerusalem neighborhood 'illegal under international law,' adding, 'such activities also prejudge the outcome of final status negotiations.' Moscow says move 'unacceptable'
The European Union on Wednesday said it was "dismayed" by Israel's plan to build hundreds of new housing units in Jerusalem's southeaster Gilo neighborhood.
In a statement, the Swedish Presidency of the EU stressed that "settlement activities, house demolitions and evictions in East Jerusalem are illegal under international law."
"Such activities also prejudge the outcome of final status negotiations and threaten the viability of a two-state solution," it said, "The Presidency of the European Union is dismayed by the recent decision on the expansion of the settlement of Gilo.
"The actions taken by the Israeli government contravene repeated calls by the international community, including the Quartet, and run counter to the creation of an atmosphere conducive to achieving a viable and credible solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians," continued the statement.
"If there is to be genuine peace, a way must be found to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states," the statement read.
Construction site in Gilo (Photo: AP)
Russia's Foreign Ministry expressed deep concern over the construction plan, saying it could stymie the Middle East peace process.
"Such actions... are unacceptable, especially at the present - extremely sensitive and crucial - moment, when all efforts are focused on restoring Palestinian-Israeli dialogue," the ministry said.
Earlier Wednesday, US President Barack Obama said construction in Gilo - a neighborhood claimed by the Palestinians - complicates administration efforts to relaunch peace talks and embitters the Palestinians.
Obama told Fox News in an interview Wednesday that additional settlement building doesn't make Israel safer.
Britain and France have also condemned the construction in Gilo, but in Israel - as Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni stressed to French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner - there is consensus on the Jerusalem neighborhood.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman also addressed the issue during a meeting with Kouchner later Wednesday and told his French counterpart that "Gilo is an integral part of Israel, like Tel Aviv and Herzliya."