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MOSCOW, November 17 (Itar-Tass) —— According to media reports, Israel’s government intends to announce within a month or two tenders for the construction of new housing units in settlement neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem – 749 homes in Har Homa and 65 in Pisgat Zeev. The move is said to come as part of the decision of the Israeli leadership to “punish” the Palestinians for their U.N. and UNESCO membership bids, the Foreign Ministry said.
The announcement of the concrete plans of the Israeli authorities in the field of settlement activity is a cause for deep concern. “Russia’s stand on this issue has been repeatedly expressed: any construction in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, is contrary to the well-known norms of international law and must be stopped,” the ministry said.
“Nor can we accept the logic of ‘punishing’ the Palestinians, including by increasing settlement activity, for their attempts to join the UN and its specialized agencies in accordance with existing relevant procedures. Such an approach, such statements and especially concrete actions are not helpful in restoring trust between the parties and undermine efforts of the Middle East Quartet of international mediators to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the well-known internationally accepted legal basis,” the ministry said.
The ministry earlier disapproved of Israel’s unilateral actions with regard to Palestine.
Earlier this month Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the housing construction be accelerated in Jerusalem, Etzion and Ma'ale Adumim. The prime minister’s office said it would be carried out in the areas that will go to Israel under any future peace agreement.
“The Israeli leadership’s decision has been taken in Moscow with deep concern. The Russian position on this matter is well known and has been repeatedly reiterated: any construction on the occupied territories is unlawful in accordance with generally recognised norms of international law and must be stopped,” it said.
“Also disturbing are mass media reports saying that the government of Israel has decided to temporarily suspend the transfer of funds from customs and tax payments due to the Palestinian National Administration. This measure runs counter to Israel’s obligations under earlier agreements, can lead to degradation of the Palestinian economy and therefore adversely affect the life of the Palestinian population,” the ministry warned.
“The decisions approved by the Israeli leadership further exacerbate the atmosphere for resuming the peace process and efforts undertaken by the international community, primarily by the Middle East Quartet, to reset the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations on the existing basis of international law,” the ministry said.
“Nor can we agree with collective punishment of Palestinians for their intention to join the U.N. and its specialised institutions. We believe that Palestinians’ legitimate applications for membership in international organisations are not and cannot be an alternative to their talks with Israel, the ultimate goal of which should be the creation of an independent, sovereign and viable Palestinian state living in peace and security with Israel,” it said.
“We strongly urge the Israeli government once again to refrain from any unilateral actions that can predetermine the outcome of the talks on the final status of Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem,” the ministry said.
Moscow is worried by the Israeli government’s new settlement plans in the southern part of East Jerusalem, the Foreign Ministry said earlier.
According to media reports, Israel plans to commence a new settlement project (2,610 houses in the first stage with a subsequent increase to 4,200) in the southern part of East Jerusalem in the area of the existing Jewish village of Givat HaMatos.
“The implementation by the Israeli authorities of such plans just like the intention to legalise numerous settlement outposts built on the occupied Palestinian territories is completely at variance with the obligations of the Israeli side assumed under the ‘road map’,” the ministry said.
“We are particularly worried by the fact that such steps can have an extremely negative impact on the international efforts, including those taken by the Middle East Quartet, to re-launch Palestinian-Israeli talks on the well-known international legal basis in accordance with the statement made after the Quartet’s meeting in New York on September 23, 2011,” the ministry said.
“We urge the Israeli government to give up its settlement activities on the occupied territories and refrain from any steps that can predetermine the status of Jerusalem and the borders of the future Palestinian state that should be determined in the course of negotiations between the partiers,” the ministry said.
According to Russian permanent representative to the U.N. Vitaly Churkin, “The two sides should refrain from unilateral steps anticipating the results of settlement, comply with international obligations, show political will and readiness for confidence-building measures and sustainable dialogue that would facilitate effective resolution of all issues related to the final status.”