China joins world condemnation of East Jerusalem building plan
France counters Obama, EU worry that Israel's plan for 900 homes will pose obstacle to peace process.
China's Foreign Ministry on Thursday added to a chorus of American, European and Palestinian demands that Israel halt construction in East Jerusalem, days after Israel announced plans to build 900 new homes in the neighborhood of Gilo.
"We urge the Israeli side to take concrete measures to restore Palestine-Israel mutual trust and create favorable conditions for the early resumption of talks between them," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a regular briefing, echoing U.S. President Barack Obama's concern that the construction poses new obstacles to the Middle East peace process.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, however, said Wednesday that he did not believe the plan would hinder peace talks. Kouchner's remarks came after Obama said the plan would complicate efforts by his administration to relaunch peace talks and embitter the Palestinians.
Kouchner told reporters at the Jaffa home of the French ambassador to Israel that he had understood from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the move was only in the stages of planning, a clarification he said he accepted.
The French foreign minister met with opposition leader Tzipi Livni earlier in the day. He told her that, "The coming days are a test for the Israeli government."
Meanwhile, the European Union on Wednesday joined the chorus of international criticism of the Israeli plan to build in East Jerusalem, saying the move hampered talks over the establishment of a Palestinian state.
"The Presidency recalls that settlement activities, house demolitions and evictions in East Jerusalem are illegal under international law," the Swedish Presidency of the EU said in a statement.
"Such activities also prejudge the outcome of final status negotiations and threaten the viability of a two-state solution."
On Monday, the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee authorized the Gilo construction, prompting an expression of "dismay" from the White House.
The plan, known as the "Western Slopes of Gilo" project, is the first stage of a much broader expansion of the southern Jerusalem neighborhood. The current expansion is in the direction of the Malha neighborhood. The full plan, which is already included in Jerusalem's master plan, will also expand the neighborhood southward.
In addition, plans exist for major construction in the area between Gilo and Har Homa and around the neighborhood of Givat Hamatos.
Overall, plans are in various stages of approval for 4,000 housing units in Gilo and its environs. All of these units would be over the Green Line.