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U.S. concerned about Israel's legalization of settlements

(Xinhua)

09:08, April 25, 2012

WASHINGTON, April 24 (Xinhua) -- The United States government on Tuesday voiced its concerns over Israel's decision to legalize three settlements in the West Bank, saying the move was not helpful to the Middle East peace process.

"We are obviously concerned by the reports that we've seen," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

"We have raised this with the Israeli government and we are seeking clarification," she told reporters at a briefing.

Noting that the Israeli decision was not helpful to the Middle East process, Nuland reiterated the U.S. position that it did not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activities.

Her remarks came after the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that a ministerial committee had decided to legalize three settlements established in the 1990s.

The three settlements, namely Bruchin, Rechelim and Sansana, previously did not enjoy a legal status.

U.S. Middle East envoy David Hale is visiting the region this week, trying to bring the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiation table. A reporter at the briefing asked Nuland if the Israeli move was viewed by Hale as sabotaging the peace efforts.

Rejecting such charge, Nuland said: "I don't think that we would characterize the situation at all the way you just have."

In September 2010, direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians resumed in Washington under the U.S. brokering. But the negotiations quickly collapsed as Israel refused to renew the moratorium on West Bank settlement construction.

In January this year, low level officials from both sides held talks in Jordan, but failed to achieve progress on resuming the direct talks.

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