France 'deeply concerned' by Israel settlement expansion
France is deeply concerned about Israel's authorisation for the expansion of 2,000 settlement homes built on occupied Palestinian land in east Jerusalem, the foreign ministry said Monday.
"Our position is constant: settlement building is illegal in the eyes of international law, in the West Bank as well as in east Jerusalem," said foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero.
Jerusalem's municipal council on Sunday approved the expansion of 2,000 homes in the settlement district of Ramat Shlomo, allowing each home to add a room.
The Ramat Shlomo neighbourhood lies in an area of Arab east Jerusalem, which Israel captured during the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed in a move not recognised by the international community.
France called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to resume peace talks based on proposals made by French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe when he visited the region earlier this month.
"We call on the parties to resume negotiations based on principles contained in the French initiative presented by Alain Juppe to Mr Netanyahu and Mr Abbas during his recent visit to the Middle East, and to refrain from unilateral gestures which undermine the trust necessary for this resumption," Valero said.
Israel's construction or expansion of homes in the area has drawn criticism from European capitals and Washington in the past, and settlement building in Ramat Shlomo led to a crisis in relations with the United States last year.
US officials are trying to lay the groundwork for the resumption of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the first in nearly two years.
The Palestinians have refused to hold talks while Israel builds on land they want for their future state, and negotiations have remained on hold since late September 2010 because of the issue.
France has proposed holding an international conference on the Israel-Palestinian conflict in Paris in July.
© 2011 AFP