US is 'deeply concerned' by new e. J'lem construction

State Department official says Washington has brought up issue of new Har Homa C neighborhood with Jerusalem.

Construction in Har Homa 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Construction in Har Homa 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The US is "deeply concerned" by Israel's decision to approve construction of 930 apartments in a new neighborhood in east Jerusalem, a State Department official said Tuesday.
"Unilateral actions work against efforts to resume direct negotiations and contradict the logic of a reasonable and necessary agreement between the parties," the official said, adding that a peaceful outcome to the ongoing crisis between Israel and the Palestinians can only be achieved through "good faith and direct negotiations."
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The US has raised the issue of the neighborhood - which was approved last week - with the government in Jerusalem, the official said.
The Interior Ministry’s Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee gave its final approval for Har Homa C last week, two years after it was first initiated. The new neighborhood is to be located on a hill adjacent to the existing Har Homa neighborhood in the capital’s southeast.
“We are continuing to build in Jerusalem and in all of Israel,” Interior Minister Eli Yishai said in a statement, adding “The lack of real estate is severe and we will not stop projects.”
The US statement comes on the heels of criticism from both the EU and the Palestinian Authority concerning the approval of Har Homa C.
"I am profoundly disappointed by Thursday's approval of a project that has triggered fierce criticism from the Palestinians and the international community," AFP quoted EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton as saying last Friday, adding that the new settlements damaged the prospects for peace.
Earlier on Friday, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat also slammed the decision and said "it makes clear Israel's intention to turn this occupation into effective annexation."
An official in the Prime Minister’s Office downplayed the significance of the Interior Ministry approval, saying “there is nothing new here,” and that this project has been in the works for some time.
“The prime minister never agreed to a construction freeze in Jerusalem,” the official said. “He has been above board about this.”
“No one was surprised by this, least of all the Palestinians,” the official said.