Russia urges Israel to stop settlement expansion
Moscow: Russia has called on Israel to abandon plans to build new apartments in the West Bank, warning that it could hurt the peace process in the Middle East.
Israel said on Wednesday it would build over 800 additional housing units in West Bank settlements and relocate some of the settlers from Ulpana within the occupied Palestinian territory.
"All Israeli settlements in the West Bank and in east Jerusalem are illegal and any settlement activity including in the existing settlements must be stopped," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday.
"These steps pose a threat to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state and undermine the prospects of a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," the statement said.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton earlier Friday blasted the Israeli decision to expand settlement construction in the West Bank.
Ashton said settlement activity puts international peace efforts in the Middle East at risk.
The Palestinians are seeking to create an independent state on the territories of West Bank, east Jerusalem, partially occupied by Israel, and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and want Israel to pull from the Palestinian territories occupied after the 1967 war.
Israel, however, has refused to return to the 1967 borders and is unwilling to raise the issue of Jerusalem, which it says is the indivisible capital of the Jewish state.
The Israeli settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territories is the main obstacle for the resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which has been stalled for over a year.
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