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United Nations

UN criticizes Israel's 'dangerous' settlement plans

Each member of the UN Security Council apart from the US has made statements opposing Israeli plans to build new settlements in East Jerusalem. The near-unanimous criticism followed a failed bid to draft a resolution.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in New York on Wednesday that Israel's plans to accelerate settlement building around Jerusalem would cool peace negotiations with the Palestinians that were already in "deep freeze."

"I call on Israel to refrain from continuing on this dangerous path, which will undermine the prospects for a resumption of dialogue and a peaceful future for Palestinians and Israelis alike," Ban said after the Security Council's briefing on the Middle East..

Israeli settlement plans criticized

Britain, France, Germany and Portugal issued a joint statement on the issue, lodging European opposition to the proposed constructions in the so-called E1 region of East Jerusalem. Israel had long refrained from building in this area, because doing so could effectively divide the West Bank

"Israel's announcements to accelerate the construction of settlements send a negative message and are undermining faith in its willingness to negotiate," British ambassador to the UN, Mark Lyall, said, reading the statement. "The viability of the two-state solution, that is key for Israel's long-term security, is threatened by the systematic expansion of settlements."

The Indian ambassador to the UN, Hardeep Singh Puri, said the series of statements issued Wednesday were "Plan B," adopted when it became clear that a resolution on the issue would likely be voted down.

Any of the permanent members of the UN Security Council - the US, Russia, China, the UK and France - can "veto" a resolution by opposing it.

Israel announced its plans to accelerate its settlement program less than a day after the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the upgraded status of "non-member observer state" for the Palestinian territories. The move upgraded the UN classification of Palestine from "entity" to "state."

Israel also responded to the November 29 vote by freezing payments of tax and customs fees that it collects on the Palestinians' behalf.

Approximately 500,000 Israelis and 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

msh/ccp (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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