EU Leaders to Urge Israel: Renew Settlement Freeze

Summit draft calls settlements 'illegal under international law' and harmful to ongoing peace negotiations.

European Union leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday will call on Israel to extend a moratorium on settlement building in the West Bank, according to a draft of the summit conclusions seen by Reuters.

"The European Union deems it indispensable that both parties observe calm and restraint and refrain from actions that could affect negatively the progress of the negotiation," reads the draft, referring to direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that began this month.

European Union

"In this regard, it recalls that settlements are illegal under international law and, with a view to ensure that these talks continue in a constructive manner, calls for an extension of the moratorium decided by Israel."

Israel's 10-month moratorium is due to expire at the end of September. The United States has said it would "make sense" for Israel to extend its settlement building freeze.

As the EU leaders were presenting their draft, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were meeting in Jerusalem to continue their direct peace negotiations.

Netanyahu has declared that Israel will not renew the settlement freeze after it expires later this month – a key Palestinian demand for continuing talks. U.S. envoy George Mitchell, who has been involved in the recent talks, said however that the two were making progress on the issue.