Hague slams decision to accelerate settlement building

UK foreign minister calls move "a serious blow to the Quartet's efforts to restart talks"; German FM calls on sides to stop unilateral moves.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina)
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina)
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague Wednesday leveled harsh criticism at and condemned Israel's decision to accelerate settlement building in response to the Palestinians' acceptance to UNESCO. Israel's announcement, he said, "is a serious blow to the Quartet's efforts to restart peace negotiations."
The plan announced by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government on Tuesday "is illegal under international law and is the latest in a series of provocative and unhelpful settlement announcements," Hauge charged.
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The UK foreign secretary also expressed concern over Israel's decision to withhold the transfer of Palestinian tax revenue, which it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. "This is in no-one's interests, least of all Israel's, since it has direct implications for the Palestinian Authority's ability to maintain effective security in the West Bank," he said.
The UK, he added, calls on Israel to reverse both decisions and for both Israelis and Palestinians "to show the courage and leadership necessary to achieve a return to negotiations."
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Wednesday also addressed the announcement, saying that "it's clear that the policy of continued settlement makes the renewal of talks more difficult."
Westerwelle urgently called on both Israelis and Palestinians to refrain making additional unilateral moves that delay the peace process."
A statement from the German Foreign Ministry added that Westerwelle was very concerned by the hardening of stances in the region. "Germany supports the goal in which an independent Palestinian state is established as part of a just solution of two states for two peoples," the statement added.
Criticizing the Palestinian application and subsequent acceptance to UNESCO, Westerwelle said he believes that two-states can be achieved only through negotiations. "There are no shortcuts, such as requests for membership in international organizations, though which one cannot change the reality on the ground and which are an obstacle to progress in negotiations."