Western powers ‘deeply troubled’ by Israeli decision to legalize nine settlements

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The foreign ministers of five Western powers said Tuesday they were “deeply troubled” by the Israeli government’s decision to legalize nine West Bank settlements and build thousands of new units.

The ministers from Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the United States said: “We strongly oppose these unilateral actions which will only serve to exacerbate tensions between Israelis and Palestinians and undermine efforts to achieve a negotiated two-state solution.”

They underlined their backing for a “comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, which must be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties.”

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“We continue to closely monitor developments on the ground which impact the viability of the two-state solution and stability in the region at large,” they added.

Israel’s security cabinet had announced on Sunday that it would legalize nine settlements in the occupied West Bank following a series of attacks in east Jerusalem, including one that killed three Israelis.

These so-called “wild” settlements were built without authorization from the Israeli government.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who signed up to Tuesday’s statement, had on Monday already criticized Israel’s plans on advancing settlements.

Israel's moves came on the heels of a visit by Blinken to the region in which he explicitly warned against settlement activity as he sought to ease tensions following violence.

More than 475,000 Israelis reside in settlements in the West Bank, where 2.8 million Palestinians live.

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