The United Kingdom is "deeply disappointed" in Israel's decision to upgrade Ariel University Center to a full-fledged university, British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said in a statement released Thursday.

"Ariel is beyond the Green Line in a settlement that is illegal according to international law," Burt stated. "This decision will deepen the presence of the settlements in the Palestinian territories and will create another obstacle to peace."

He reiterated the country's call to reverse recent decisions to approve the construction of new housing units beyond the Green Line along with the latest move in Ariel.

He added that in a conversation with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last week, he had commended the PA's "measured response" to the recent settlement decisions.

"We welcome that President Abbas has publicly rejected the recent inflammatory statements by Hamas leaders, and that he has stated clearly the position of the legitimate Palestinian leadership which has accepted the State of Israel in 1967 borders," Burt continued.

Burt stressed that the UK "utterly and reservedly" condemns the recent call for a third intifada by a senior Hamas official.

The British minister repeated calls on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Abbas to show strong leadership in order to return to the negotiating table and expressed hope that 2013 would be the "year of peace" for the region.

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