The White House urged Israel and the Palestinians on Thursday not to take unilateral actions that could undermine chances to renew long-stalled peace talks.
White House spokesman Jay Carney spoke after Interior Minister Eli Yishai gave final approval for a plan to build 1,600 homes in east Jerusalem, a project whose announcement last year during a visit by US Vice President Joe Biden caused a diplomatic rift with Washington.
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US President Barack Obama's administration – which has failed to revive the Middle East peace process – has pressed Israel, to little avail, to halt expansion of Jewish settlements.
At the same time, Washington has made clear it opposes any attempt by the Palestinians to win UN endorsement of statehood in September in the absence of peace talks they suspended over settlement construction.
"Our position on that has not changed," Carney said when asked whether the Israeli government's official go-ahead for the east Jerusalem housing project would hurt US efforts to dissuade the Palestinians from their threatened UN statehood bid.
"We obviously urge both sides not to take any action that makes it harder for the two sides to come together and negotiate," he told reporters aboard Air Force One as Obama headed for a factory visit in Michigan.
Palestinians want east Jerusalem as capital of the state they hope to found in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which Israel seized in the 1967 Six Day War. Israel claims all of Jerusalem its capital – a status not recognized abroad.
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