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Middle East Quartet "greatly concerned" by Israel's planning for new housing units

(Xinhua)

09:43, August 17, 2011

UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- The Middle East Quartet, which is comprised of the UN, the United States, the European Union and Russia, on Tuesday said they were "greatly concerned" by Israel's recent announcement to advance planning for new housing units.

"The Quartet is greatly concerned by Israel's recent announcements to advance planning for new housing units in Ariel and East Jerusalem, and reiterates its position in this regard, in particular its statement of March 12, 2010," said a statement by the Middle East Quartet.

Despite recent international condemnation of ongoing settlement construction, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday gave final permit for plans to build about 300 new housing units in Ariel, among the largest settlements in the West Bank.

"The Quartet reaffirms that unilateral action by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community," said the Middle East Quartet's statement.

"Jerusalem in particular is one of the core issues that must be resolved through negotiations between the parties, which underscores the urgent need for the parties to resume serious and substantive talks," it said.

"This comes at a critical juncture with Quartet efforts ongoing to resume negotiations which are the "only way to a just and durable solution to the conflict," the statement said.

The Quartet said that it is determined to pursue its efforts. " Ultimately, it is up to Israeli and Palestinian leaders to make tough decisions and avoid actions by their governments that undermine the very goals they and we are trying to achieve."

In March, Israel announced plans to build 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem, which delayed the resumption of peace talks with Palestine.

Following March's announcement, the Middle East Quartet condemned Israel's decision to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem.

Last Sept., the U.S. managed to bring the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiation table in Washington. But only after two brief rounds, the talks collapsed, as Israel refused to extend the moratorium on the West Bank settlement construction.

Currently, Israel's continuing settlement expansion, plus Palestinians' insistence on seeking a statehood at the United Nations, has made the already pessimistic prospects of Middle East peace even dimmer.

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