Catherine Ashton
European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton speaking in Brussels on June 17, 2010 Photo by AP
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Israel's planned demolition of Palestinian homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan is "an obstacle to peace," European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton said Wednesday.

The city's plan would raze 22 Palestinian homes and construct a tourism center in their place. An additional 66 homes built without the proper permits would receive approval retroactively.

The tourism center for the area, which is called Al Bustan in Arabic and Gan Hamelekh (King's Garden) in Hebrew, is to include restaurants and boutique hotels.

The city said it would help residents of the 22 homes due for demolition to move to other areas of Silwan.

The French news agency AFP quoted Ashton Wednesday as saying that "'settlements and the demolition of homes are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible."

Ashton added that the European Union has never recognized Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem, saying that "if there is to be genuine peace, a way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states."

According to AFP, Ashton urged Israel "to refrain from measures which may undermine the ongoing proximity talks" between Israel and the Palestinians, where mediators shuttle between the two parties. "These talks enjoy our full support and the parties need to engage seriously in these negotiations."

Silwan is part of the so-called Holy Basin, just outside the walls of Jerusalem's famed Old City, and is believed to be the site of ancient Jerusalem during the time of the biblical kings David and Solomon.