European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has released a statement condemning Israel's decision to go forward with plans to build thousands of new homes in two Jerusalem neighborhoods, Givat Hamatos and Ramat Shlomo.
"The approval of an additional 2,610 housing units in the settlement of Givat Hamatos is extremely troubling, coming in addition to announcements made at the end of November and Monday’s approval of 1500 units in Ramat Shlomo," Ashton said.
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"This plan for Givat Hamatos would cut the geographic continuity between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. I strongly oppose this unprecedented expansion of settlements around Jerusalem."
The Jerusalem Planning Committee on Wednesday approved the construction of 2,612 housing units in the new east Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Hamatos, only days after a plan to build 1,500 in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in the capital was given the green light.
The announcement came amid mounting international discontent over a separate plan to build more settler homes in a disputed corridor of land east of Jerusalem called E1, which critics say could threaten the territorial contiguity and viability of a future Palestinian state.
In Thursday's statement, Ashton reiterated the EU's disapproval of settlement construction and vaguely pledged to take action against such measures.
"The EU has never been clearer than it was on 10 December in voicing its strong opposition to settlement expansion," she said. "The EU particularly opposes the implementation of plans which seriously undermine the prospects of a negotiated resolution of the conflict by jeopardizing the possibility of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state and of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states.
"In the light of its core objective of achieving the two-state solution, the EU will closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and act accordingly."
She further called on Israel and the Palestinians to resume the peace talks.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' spokesman meanwhile warned that Israel would be held "accountable" for its settlement construction.
"The settlers and the government of Israel should know they will be held accountable," Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP on Thursday morning.
Abu Rudeina appeared to be making a veiled reference to the possibility that the Palestinian Authority, which was recently recognized as a nonmember observer state at the UN General Assembly, could seek to join and then appeal to the International Criminal Court over Israel's actions.
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