Russia slams Israel’s approval of building more settler units in the occupied Palestinian lands ahead of new talks between the two sides as "counterproductive." The Russian Foreign Ministry on Monday said Moscow was "seriously concerned" by the move, which gave the final approval for the construction of 1,187 apartments in East al-Quds (Jerusalem) and the West Bank. The Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel announced the decision on Saturday just days before second round of US-mediated negotiations between Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israeli officials. The negotiations are meant to reach a deal on a Palestinian state.
"The announcement of such plans on the eve of a new round of negotiations due to be held in [East al-Quds] Jerusalem on August 14 ... is a counterproductive step that complicates the atmosphere of the talks," the Russian ministry statement said.The decision has infuriated the Palestinians with their top negotiator, Saeb Erekat, saying the PA is now mulling boycotting the talks with Israel. "The settlement plans contradict the principle of confidence and goodwill that the resumption of negotiations should have provided," Erekat said. Israeli settlements are considered illegal by the UN and most countries because the territories were captured by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967, and are hence seen as being subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbid construction on occupied lands. Palestinians are seeking to create an independent state on the territories of the West Bank, East al-Quds, and the Gaza Strip and are demanding Israel to withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories. Tel Aviv, however, has refused to return to the 1967 borders and is unwilling to discuss the issue of al-Quds. PG/SS