EU Council presidency expresses concern over W. Bank, e. J'lem construction

The presidency of the Council of the European Union expressed its deep concern Monday over Israel's continued construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. In a statement, the presidency specifically referred to the decision to approve the construction of 400 housing units in Neve Yaakov and invite tenders for 286 and 130 housing units in Beitar Illit and Har Homa, saying the decision "serves to undermine the credibility of the ongoing peace process." It stressed that the construction of settlements anywhere in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, was illegal under international law and that such activity "prejudges the outcome of final status negotiations" and "compromises the viability of a concerted two-state solution." The statement called on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to honor their respective "road map" undertakings reaffirmed at the Annapolis conference. It urged Israel to completely freeze settlement activity, including that which caters for "natural growth," in east Jerusalem, and to dismantle all unauthorized outposts built since 2001.