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Erekat: Israel settler plans 'message' to Kerry not to return

Jan. 10, 2014 4:40 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 11, 2014 7:39 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (AFP) -- Israeli plans unveiled Friday to build over 1,800 settler homes are a signal to US Secretary of State John Kerry not to pursue his peace push, a top Palestinian negotiator said.

"The new settlement construction plan is a message from (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu to Kerry not to come back to the region to continue his efforts in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks," Saeb Erekat told AFP.

"Every time Kerry has stepped up his efforts, returning to the region (for more talks), Netanyahu has stepped up his efforts to destroy the peace process," Erekat said.

"Netanyahu is determined to destroy the two-state solution.

"It is high time we held Israel accountable for its crimes," he added.

The Israeli housing ministry announced the plans for 1,076 new settlement units in annexed East Jerusalem and 801 in the occupied West Bank, said the Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now.

The housing ministry was not immediately available for comment.

The move comes a week after Kerry visited the region in his latest effort to push Israeli and Palestinian leaders towards an elusive peace deal.

Kerry kick-started negotiations in July after a three-year hiatus, but his 10th visit was clouded by bitter recriminations from both sides, who accused each other of lacking commitment to building peace after decades of conflict.

Israel has announced plans for thousands of settler homes since peace talks began in July.

All settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are considered illegal under international law.

Ma'an staff contributed to this report
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