Apr 20, 2014, 4:51 pm (BST)
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Middle East Quartet condemns Israeli settlement plan
UNITED NATIONS, March 13 (BSS/AFP) - The Middle East diplomatic Quartet on Friday issued a rare condemnation of Israel for its plans to build new settler homes, warning that unilateral actions would not be recognized by the world community.

The group -- the European Union, the United States, Russia and the United Nations -- "condemns Israel's decision to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem."

"The Quartet reaffirms that unilateral actions taken by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community," it added in a statement.

Separately, Washington also sharpy rebuked its close ally,
with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telling Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the latest Israeli move was "a
deeply negative signal about Israel's approach to the bilateral

The Jewish state announced Tuesday during a landmark visit
by US Vice President Joe Biden that 1,600 new settler homes would
be built in predominantly Arab east Jerusalem.

The announcement angered Arab and Palestinian leaders, just
as fledgling indirect talks appeared to have been coaxed back to
life by the United States.

It was also criticized by both the European Union and the
United Nations, which reiterated that all settlements are
"illegal." Russia called the move "unacceptable" and Britain said
it would "give strength to those who argue that Israel is not
serious about peace."

In its statement, the Quartet said it had agreed to closely
monitor developments in Jerusalem and to keep under consideration
"additional steps that may be required to address the situation
on the ground."

It reiterated that Arab-Israeli peace and the creation of
"an independent, contiguous and viable state of Palestine is in
the fundamental interests of the parties, of all states in the
region, and of the international community."

It appealed to all concerned to back the urgent resumption
of dialogue between the parties and to promote an atmosphere
conducive to successful negotiations to resolve all outstanding
issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the status
of Jerusalem.

The issue will be discussed at a ministerial session of the
grouping scheduled for March 19 in Moscow, to be attended by

The Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their
promised state.

Israel, which seized east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War
and later annexed it in a move not recognized by the
international community, considers the city its eternal and
indivisible capital.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who Tuesday also slammed Israel's plan
for new settlement homes, conferred with Clinton at UN
headquarters Friday and praised her efforts to revive the peace

"I really appreciate your leadership to enable this Middle
East peace process to resume through indirect proximity talks,"
the secretary general told Clinton, who was here to speak at an
international women's conference.

Ban also said he looked forward to joining Clinton in Moscow
next week, saying the Quartet meeting "will provide a very
important opportunity for us to work together for the peace
process eventually leading to direct negotiations."

Immediately after attending the Moscow meeting, the UN chief
is to tour the Gaza Strip, Israel and the West Bank.
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