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UNITED NATIONS, September 01, /ITAR-TASS/. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday voiced concern about Israel’s plans to annex 1,000 hectares of Palestinian land.
The move may be followed by illegal construction of Jewish settlements on this land, he said.
“The seizure of such a large swath of land risks paving the way for further settlement activity, which - as the United Nations has reiterated on many occasions - is illegal under international law and runs totally counter to the pursuit of a two-state solution,” the U.N. chief’s spokesperson said in a statement.
On August 31, Israel announced plans to declare as so-called “state land” nearly 1,000 acres of land in the Bethlehem area of the West Bank occupied in 1967.
Having noted the dangerous ramifications of this step, Ban urged Israel “to heed the calls of the international community to refrain from settlement activity and abide by its commitments under international law and the Quartet Road Map”.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also expressed concern about Israel’s plans. “If undertaken, such unilateral actions will inflict tangible damage upon the Palestinian-Israeli settlement which is based on the principle that the border of the future Palestinian state should be drawn along the lines of 1967 with agreed-upon territorial exchanges,” the ministry said.
Israel’s previous settlement plans were severely criticised by the European Union and the United States.
In August 2013, Israel’s Interior Ministry approved the construction of 890 new flats in Gilo, a large residential area in south-western East Jerusalem with a population of 40,000, mostly Jewish, located beyond the 1949 Green Line. Prior to that, Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel had authorised the construction of 394 houses in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and 793 flats in East Jerusalem, including 400 in Gilo.
Israel was planning to build 386 settlements in Har-Homa, 136 settlements in Neve-Yaakov and 36 settlements in Pisgat-Zeev.
In November 2013, the Israeli authorities announced tenders for 1,859 settlement units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israel said it was planning to build 3,700 new houses there.
“The EU has repeatedly stated that settlements are illegal under international law and that bold and decisive leadership is needed for the current peace negotiations to succeed,” Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said.
“The EU deplores the latest settlement announcement and calls on the Israeli government to reverse its decision. Any actions that could hamper or undermine the on-going negotiations must be avoided,” Ashton said.
Prior to that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also reiterated his country’s positions that Israeli settlements were “illegitimate.”
“Let me emphasise at this point the position of the United States of America on the settlements is that we consider now and have always considered the settlements to be illegitimate… The United States has said that they believe the settlements are not helpful and are illegitimate,” he said.
In June of this year, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that new settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem would threaten prospects for a two-state solution to the Palestinian problem.
“On June 5 the Israeli Ministry of Construction announced a tender for building new settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. Moscow voices concern over Israel’s step,” the ministry said.
Israel’s new settlement policy “poses a direct threat to the Palestinian settlement. We believe that the settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territories is illegal and should be stopped. We confirm that it is necessary to refrain from any unilateral actions aimed at undermining the peace settlement”, it said.
“We believe that Israel’s refusal to continue the settlement policy would invigorate the negotiating process and create more favourable conditions for resuming the peace process,” the ministry stated.