12 European States Urge Israel to Stop Settlement Expansion

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A view shows the Israeli settlement of Har Homa in the West Bank, on Wednesday.
A view shows the Israeli settlement of Har Homa in the West Bank, on Wednesday. Credit: AMMAR AWAD/ REUTERS

Germany, along with other 11 European countries, urged Israel on Thursday to reverse its decision to advance plans to construct around 3,000 settlement units in the West Bank.

In a joint statement by the foreign ministries of Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain and Sweden, the countries said they opposed settlement expansion across the occupied Palestinian Territories.

"We call on both parties to build on steps taken in recent months to improve cooperation and reduce tensions," the countries said.

The United Kingdom issued a statement by Minister for the Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly that called on Israel to reverse the approval and said settlements "are illegal under international law and present an obstacle to peace and stability."

Also Thursday, Russia's Foreign Ministry wrote on Twitter that it was "disappointed" with Israel's decision and that it "reaffirm[ed] Russia's principled position that Israel's settlement activity is illegal."

Israel moved forward on Wednesday with plans to build some 3,000 homes for Jewish settlers in the West Bank, defying the strongest criticism to date of such projects from the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden.

On Tuesday, the Biden administration strongly condemned Israel's plans to advance housing units in Israeli settlements in its firmest public rebuke of Israeli policy to date.

Senior U.S. officials told Naftali Bennett's office in discreet talks that their concerns mainly relate to the expected construction in the depths of Palestinian territory. The messages were conveyed, among other avenues, from the office of U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

"We are deeply concerned about the Israeli government's plan to advance thousands of settlement units, many of them deep in the West Bank. In addition, we're concerned about the publication of tenders on Sunday for 1,300 settlement units in a number of West Bank settlements," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. 

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