U.N. says Israeli settlements undermine peace hopes

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U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon on Friday slammed Israel’s settlement surge in the occupied West Bank as undermining hopes of ending the Middle East conflict by setting up a Palestinian state.

“The secretary general is deeply concerned by the continuing expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank in violation of international law,” said U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky.

Ban was “particularly troubled” at Israel moving forward with plans for more than 1,000 new homes in two West Bank settlements, said the spokesman. The move has already been condemned by the United States and Palestinian leaders.

“These are unhelpful decisions that undermine progress towards the two-state solution,” said the spokesman.

“They constitute a deeply worrisome trend at a moment of ongoing efforts to relaunch peace negotiations.

“The secretary general calls on Israel to heed the calls of the international community to freeze settlement activity and abide by its commitments under international law and the Road Map,” he said, referring to an internationally-approved blueprint for the peace process drafted in 2003.

Israel’s new settlement plans emerged as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry seeks to reinvigorate the Middle East peace process.

The Peace Now settlement watchdog said Israel has plans to build 538 new homes in the northern settlement of Itamar and to legalize 137 existing units there.

It has also submitted plans for 550 homes in Bruchin, of which 52 have already been built.

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