BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- British minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt on Wednesday condemned Israel's decision to issue approval for over 1,200 housing units in illegal settlements, a statement said.
On Dec. 24 the Jerusalem District Planning Board approved 1,242 housing units in Mordot Gilo South and upgraded Ariel College to university status, thereby creating the first university in a settlement.
"These are further profoundly provocative actions that run contrary to the Fourth Geneva Convention. By taking these steps, despite the international community repeatedly raising our profound concerns, the Israeli Government is damaging Israel’s international reputation," Burt said.
"Ariel is beyond the Green Line in a settlement that is illegal according to international law. This decision will deepen the presence of the settlements in the Palestinian territories and will create another obstacle to peace," he added.
The British minister urged Israel to reverse its decision and called on President Abbas and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to return to negotiations, which last broke down in 2010 after Netanyahu refused to freeze settlement building.
European nations and Washington have criticized Netanyahu's plans to build as many as 6,000 more settlement homes, announced since a Nov. 29 United Nations vote gave Palestinians effective recognition as a state and angered Israel.
Israel has signaled it intends to retain control of several larger settlement blocs such as Ariel under any future pact, while the fates of other enclaves may be negotiated.