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UK condemns Israeli 'provocation' in Jerusalem

Dec. 30, 2011 3:16 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 1, 2012 12:20 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Britain's Minister for the Middle East and North Africa Alistair Burt on Friday condemned Israel's plans to expand an illegal settlement and build a tourism center in occupied East Jerusalem.

Jerusalem municipality on Wednesday approved plans to build 130 new homes in Gilo settlement and a tourism complex in Silwan.

"I condemn the decision by the Jerusalem Local Planning and Building Committee to build additional structures in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan, and housing in the settlement of Gilo," Burt said in a statement.

"This is another provocative and deeply counter-productive step, the latest in a series by the Israeli authorities," he added.

The minister said Israel's continued settlement building made it "ever harder" to achieve a two-state solution.

France also said it was "deeply concerned" by Israel's plans for the occupied city in a statement Thursday.

It urged Israel to abandon the projects "in order to establish between the parties a climate of trust that is conducive to the resumption of direct negotiations."

In September 2010, Israel refused to extend a partial freeze on illegal settlement building despite intense international pressure, prompting the PLO to withdraw from talks.

All settlements are illegal under international law, and the PLO refuses to return to negotiations while Israel continues to build Jewish-only housing on occupied Palestinian land.

On Nov. 1, Israel announced it was speeding up illegal construction after the UN cultural agency UNESCO voted to admit Palestine.
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