Russia, Italy call on Israel to abandon homes project

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Russia called on Israel Wednesday to scrap the planned construction of 1,100 homes for settlers in east Jerusalem, saying it feared the effect of the decision on peace talks.

"We are particularly concerned that decisions on such a sensitive matter should be taken at an extremely important time for the future of the peace process," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

"We are counting (on Israel) so that the construction projects in east Jerusalem are reviewed."

Israel revealed on Tuesday the construction plans for the settlement of Gilo, a move Palestinians slammed as a rejection of a proposal by the so called Quartet -- the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and United States -- for new peace talks.

Palestinian envoy to the UN, Riyad Mansour, called the construction plans "offensive, provocative and illegal".

Rome on Wednesday joined Russia, the US, the EU, Britain, France and China in condemning the announcement.

"Italy expresses its profound disappointment at the decision," the foreign ministry said.

The building approval "is a stumbling block in the re-establishment of a climate of trust between the parties," it said, calling for the plans to be abandoned.

The UN Security Council on Wednesday pushed back a decision on a Palestinian bid to join the United Nations.

The 15-member council sent the request made by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas last Friday to a special membership committee to give its verdict.

© 2011 AFP

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