Britain condemns Israel's plan to build 1,000 settlement units in southern Jerusalem

EU warned on Saturday that plans endanger prospect of two-state solution

A staircase leading down a slope where several old caravans stand on the area Jerusalem called Givat Hamatos, overlooking Jerusalem. EPA
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Britain’s Middle East Minister on Monday condemned Israel’s announcement that it is going ahead with the construction of more than 1,000 settlement units in southern Jerusalem.

On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had authorised a tender of the construction of 1,077 housing units in Givat Hamatos, in southern Jerusalem.

The Israeli leader said he planned to approve 4,000 apartments in Givat Hamatos overall – 3,000 for Jewish residents and the other 1,000 for Arab residents.

He also plans to advance 2,200 units in the existing settlement of Har Homa.

“Settlement construction in these highly sensitive areas undermines the viability of a future Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem," said James Cleverly, Britain’s minister for the Middle East and North Africa.

“The UK’s position on Israeli settlements is clear: they are illegal under international law and damaging to renewed efforts to launch peace negotiations. We urge Israel to reverse this decision immediately."

Britain had expressed its concern this month at recent reports that suggested Israel would move to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, recognised by the international community to be a Palestinian territory.

On Saturday, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned that Israel was endangering the prospect of a two-state solution with Palestine with its plan to expand the settlements.

France, Germany, Ireland and Italy also put out individual statements condemning the plan.

France’s statement urged Israeli officials to reconsider decisions and "to refrain from unilateral measures".

It also said Jerusalem should be recognised as both the Israeli and Palestinian capital.

After unveiling his plan for peace between the Palestinians and Israelis in January, US President Donald Trump produced a map that would see stretches of land on which Israel has long encroached in the West Bank transferred within its borders.

The plan places all areas of Jerusalem within a route of the security barrier under sovereign Israel. Givat Hamatos and Har Homa are within the route.

The EU is scheduled to discuss the Trump peace plan on March 23, in a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels.

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