EU, France and UK condemn construction plan for southern Jerusalem

Paris calls Interior Ministry’s approval of 800 new homes in Gilo neighborhood ‘a provocation’

Ilan Ben Zion is an AFP reporter and a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (photo credit: AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko/File)
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (photo credit: AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko/File)

The European Union, Britain and France on Friday criticized Israel’s approval of a plan to construct hundreds of additional apartments in a Jerusalem neighborhood situated south of the 1967 Green Line.

The Interior Ministry on Thursday approved a plan to expand the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo by 797 units. The plan was published for validation in an Israeli newspaper in what was the last phase of the planning process, AFP reported.

The French Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the Interior Ministry’s decision, calling it “a provocation in an already-tense context.” Paris reiterated its stance that Israeli settlement construction is illegal, “undermines trust-building between the parties, and constitutes an obstacle to a just peace based on the two-state solution.”

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she “deeply regrets” the Israeli government’s decision, adding that Jerusalem’s continued expansion of what she called Jewish settlements like Gilo and Har Homa “continue the process of separating East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory.”

Ashton emphasized the EU’s stance that negotiations are “the best way forward in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and that settlement expansion hinders progress towards peace.

British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt also strongly condemned the plan, which he regarded as “deeply worrying.” He added that London “has been clear that Israeli settlements are illegal and undermine the possibility of a two state solution.”

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