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UN Mideast envoy 'very concerned' over Israel's Jerusalem settlement project

Israel has long ignored international criticism of settlement activity [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 November, 2020

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Plans to build beyond Green Line before Biden enters White House damages "prospects for a future contiguous Palestinian State and for achieving a negotiated two-State solution," Nickolay Mladenov says
The UN's Mideast envoy on Monday expressed concerned over Israel's decision to advance construction in a Jewish settlement in the occupied east Jerusalem, a move deemed illegal by the international community and the UN.

The move also risks angering the incoming US administration, which is opposed to illegal settlement expansion and hopes to revive negotiations with the Palestinians over a two-state solution.

The Israel Land Authority announced on its site on Sunday that it had opened up tenders for more than 1,200 new homes in the illegal settlement of Givat Hamatos, according to the Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now.

"If built, it would further consolidate a ring of settlements between Jerusalem and Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank," Nickolay Mladenov, the UN envoy to the Middle East peace process, said in a statement.

"It would significantly damage prospects for a future contiguous Palestinian State and for achieving a negotiated two-state solution based on the 1967 lines, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states," the statement added.

"Settlement construction is illegal under international law and I call on the authorities to reverse this step."

Read also: Israel moves ahead on sensitive east Jerusalem settlement plans

The Palestinian Authority and the European Union's foreign policy chief have also criticised the move.

The Palestinians want a future state that includes east Jerusalem and the West Bank, territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 war, and view settlements as a major obstacle to peace.

With nearly 500,000 settlers now living in the West Bank illegally, and over 220,000 more in east Jerusalem, the Palestinians say the chances of establishing their state are quickly dwindling.

Israel has long ignored international criticism of settlement activity, but the decision to move ahead with construction at Givat Hamatos could harm relations with President-elect Joe Biden, who has promised to take a more even-handed approach to the conflict.

President Donald Trump has given unprecedented support to Israel, including by abandoning the decades-old US position that settlements are illegitimate.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans to visit a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank later this week in a stunning departure from his predecessors, who frequently criticised settlement construction.

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