Israel's new settler homes 'a blow to peace efforts': UK

2nd November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain on Wednesday condemned Israel's decision to build 2,000 settler homes to punish the Palestinians for joining UNESCO, saying it represented a "serious blow" to peace efforts in the region.

Foreign Secretary William Hague also expressed concern with the decision to withold Palestinian tax revenues, saying the move was "in no-one's interests".

"We need to see steps towards peace, not actions that divide and isolate the parties further and undermine the prospects for negotiations," he said.

"We call on Israel to reverse both these decisions, and on both sides to show the courage and leadership necessary to achieve a return to negotiations."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's inner cabinet decided on Tuesday to speed up construction in east Jerusalem and in nearby settlements, a day after UNESCO's general assembly voted Palestine in as a full member.

It also decided to temporarily freeze the transfer of customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports, which constitute a large percentage of the Palestinian budget.

The settlement announcement "is a serious blow to the Quartet's efforts to restart peace negotiations", Hague said in a statement, referring to the peacemaking group comprising the United States, UN, EU and Russia.

"This settlement building programme is illegal under international law and is the latest in a series of provocative and unhelpful settlement announcements. I condemn the decision to accelerate such construction.

"I am also very concerned about Israel's decision to withhold Palestinian tax revenues.

"This is in no-one's interests, least of all Israel's, since it has direct implications for the Palestinian Authority's ability to maintain effective security in the West Bank."

© 2011 AFP

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