Brussels: The EU accused Israel of riding
roughshod through "obligations" surrounding peace efforts
on Sunday, by granting legal status to new and existing
settlements in Palestinian territories.
European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said
decisions to proceed with 2,600 new housing units in the
settlement of Givat Hamatos and to legalise housing in West
Bank outposts were "unacceptable" and "run against roadmap
"Settlements are illegal under international law. These
decisions should be reversed," she said in a statement
Her condemnation followed that of UN leader Ban Ki-moon,
but was issued before Israel published a list of 477
Palestinian prisoners to be released next week as part of the
deal to free Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who has been in
captivity in Gaza for more than five years.
"The proposed constructions in Givat Hamatos are of
particular concern as they would cut the geographic contiguity
between Jerusalem and Bethlehem," Ashton underlined.
Frustrated in her role as negotiator for the Quartet of
international powers trying to jumpstart peace talks -- the
United States, Russia, the EU and the UN -- she said the
Israeli policy on settlement activities ran contrary to
"Israel`s stated commitment to this process."
She added: "Both parties are responsible for the creation
of an environment of trust conducive to negotiations."
The Quartet launched a new bid to restart peace talks on
the day that Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas launched its
pending application for Palestinian membership of the United
The Palestinian Authority has rejected direct talks with
Israel since a freeze on settlement building was ended in