Saudi Arabia rejects, condemns Israel's settlement moves near East Jerusalem

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Saudi Arabia rejects and condemns Israel's move decision to invite contractor bids to build 1,257 new settlements near East Jerusalem, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs affirms the Kingdom's condemnation and rejection of the move, which contravenes international resolutions, undermines efforts towards the two-state solutions and affects efforts to achieve peace in the region," the ministry said in a tweet.

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Israel moved ahead on Sunday with a settler housing plan in a sensitive area near East Jerusalem, a step critics said aimed to shore up the project before US President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

On its website, the Israel Land Authority (ILA) invited contractor bids for building 1,257 homes in Givat Hamatos, under a plan revived in February by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after it had been effectively frozen by international opposition.

Bidding ends on Jan. 18, the ILA said, two days before Biden is to be sworn in to replace President Donald Trump, whose administration has been supportive of Israeli settlement on occupied land Palestinians seek for a state.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said in a statement that settlements were illegal under international law and the tender was part of Israeli efforts "to kill the internationally-backed two-state solution".

Opponents of the project say it would sever parts of East Jerusalem from the nearby Palestinian town of Bethlehem in the West Bank, an issue European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell raised, saying he was "deeply worried" by the tender.

"This is a key location between Jerusalem and Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. Any settlement construction will cause serious damage to the prospects for a viable and contiguous Palestinian State," Borrell said in a statement.

The ILA gave no date for the start of construction.

Peace Now, an Israeli anti-settlement group, accused Netanyahu's government of "taking advantage of the final weeks of the Trump administration in order to set facts on the ground" at Givat Hamatos.

Israel cites historical, political and biblical links to the West Bank and over 440,000 Israeli settlers live there, among three million Palestinians.

- With Reuters

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