EU condemns Israel's plans to build settler homes in Jerusalem

BRUSSELS (AFP) - The European Union on Friday condemned Israel's reported plans to build more than 1,000 new settler homes in east Jerusalem as a threat to the peace process.

EU foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton said she felt "compelled to reiterate the EU's long-standing position" following reports of the settlement plans.

"Settlements are illegal under international law and threaten to make a two-state (peace) solution impossible," Ms Ashton said in a statement.

"The EU has repeatedly urged ... Israel to immediately end all settlement activities in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem," she said.

"The EU has consistently maintained that negotiations remain the best way forward... and it reiterates that it will not recognise any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem."

Danny Seidemann, director of Jerusalem settlement watchdog Terrestrial Jerusalem, said that contracts for 300 homes in the northeastern settlement of Ramot were signed and another 797 plots were to be offered for sale in the southern Jerusalem settlement of Gilo, near the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

Both are in mainly-Arab areas of the holy city which were occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day war then annexed, in a move still unrecognised by the international community.

The Palestinian leadership wants a total freeze on Israeli settlement construction before it resumes peace talks with Israel, which have been stalled for almost three years.

The United States warned Israel on Thursday that continued settlement activity in east Jerusalem was "counterproductive" to efforts to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians.

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