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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Boris Johnson condemns Israeli advancement of West Bank settlement units

Israeli authorities approved another large set of plans for settlement homes in the occupied West Bank earlier this week

Boris Johnson, the UK's foreign minister, praises the 2015 Iran nuclear deal as a symbol of diplomatic hard graft REUTERS/Chris J Ratcliffe
Boris Johnson, the UK's foreign minister, praises the 2015 Iran nuclear deal as a symbol of diplomatic hard graft REUTERS/Chris J Ratcliffe

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson joined the EU’s condemnation of the advancement by the Israeli authorities for a significant number of settlement units across the West Bank.

Israeli authorities approved another large set of plans for settlement homes in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday.

The move prompted the European Union’s foreign service to issue a statement the same day demanding that Israel must halt its new building plans for settler homes in the West Bank and warning that such settlements threatened any future peace deal with the Palestinians.

“The European Union has requested clarifications from Israeli authorities and conveyed the expectation that they reconsider these decisions, which are detrimental to on-going efforts towards meaningful peace talks,” the statement said.

“All settlement activity is illegal under international law, and it undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect for a lasting peace.”

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: “The UK strongly condemns the advancement by the Israeli authorities of plans, tenders and permits for thousands of settlement units across the West Bank.

“We are particularly concerned by the approval of settlement construction permits in Hebron for the first time in 15 years. Settlements are illegal under international law and undermine both the physical viability of the two-state solution and perceptions of Israel’s commitment to it.”.

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The EU maintains that the lands Israel has occupied since the 1967 Middle East war - including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights - are not part of the internationally recognized borders of Israel.

Some 1,323 settlement housing units were given a green light on Wednesday, while 2,646 have been advanced this week, it said, as part of a government push to expand West Bank settlement construction.

The plans passed this week are at various stages in Israel's complex approval process. A planning committee overseeing West Bank settlement construction granted the latest approvals.

Israeli officials say a total of around 12,000 housing units will be given various stages of approval this year, four times the amount in 2016.

US President Donald Trump has also said he is seeking to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which have been frozen since a US-led initiative collapsed in 2014.

However, his administration has offered no details of its plans and he has yet to commit to a two-state solution to the conflict -- long the focus of international peace efforts.

About 430,000 Israeli settlers live among 2.6 million Palestinians in the West Bank, occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.