UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday blasted an Israeli announcement made earlier in the day to advance settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Ban condemned as "contrary to international law" the move announced by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in conjunction with Israel's release early Wednesday morning of 26 long-serving Palestinian prisoners.
He added that further Israeli building in areas over the Green Line constituted "an obstacle to peace".
However, Ban stated his appreciation for Israel's undertaking the "difficult step" of releasing the second batch of pre-Oslo prisoners amid "deep domestic opposition" as a gesture for continuing peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.
He added that the UN expected parties to promote conditions conducive to a successful negotiation process and refrain from actions that undermine trust.