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Egypt: New Israeli settler homes 'major obstacle'

Aug. 12, 2011 5:37 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 12, 2011 5:42 P.M.)
BERLIN (AFP) -- Egypt on Friday blasted Israel's approval of 1,600 new homes in an east Jerusalem settlement as a "major obstacle" to the start of new peace talks with the Palestinians.

"We cannot accept this, we condemn it categorically," Foreign Minister Mohammed Amr said in Berlin during his first European visit since taking office last month, according to remarks translated into German by an interpreter.

"These settlements are illegal, they violate international law, and Israel taking this path is a major obstacle to negotiations" with Palestinians," he added, noting that Egypt had long backed "a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as the (Palestinian) capital".

Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai gave final approval Thursday to the construction of 1,600 units in the Ramat Shlomo settlement, prompting a furious response from Palestinian officials.

The European Union, the United States and Russia also criticized the decision.

The move comes as the international community struggles to find a way to relaunch peace talks in a bid to head off a Palestinian plan to seek United Nations membership at next month's General Assembly.

The Palestinians have said they will not return to the negotiating table without a halt to Israeli settlement construction and a clear framework for talks.

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