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Israel summons EU ambassadors to protest 'pro-Palestinian bias'

Israel has summoned the ambassadors from four EU countries to protest what it described as their "one-sided" stand in favor of Palestinians. This is the latest move in a row over Israeli settlement homes.

A statement released by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Friday said he had summoned the ambassadors of Britain, France, Italy and Spain to "stress to them that their perpetual one-sided stance against Israel and in favor of the Palestinians is unacceptable and creates the impression they are only seeking ways to blame Israel."

The move came a day after the governments of the same four EU member states had called in their respective Israeli ambassadors to protest the country's

latest announcement regarding settlement construction.

Lieberman also accused the EU countries of damaging the Middle East peace process through criticism of Israel's settlement policy.

"Beyond being biased, unbalanced and ignoring the reality on the ground, the positions held by these states significantly harm the possibility of reaching some sort of agreement between the sides," his statement said.

Last week, Israel announced plans to build 1,400 new homes in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, which most of the international community regards as illegal.

Anger at EU reaction

On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted angrily to a statement issued by Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy coordinator, in which she criticized the latest settlement construction as "illegal under international law" and "an obstacle to peace."

"The EU calls our ambassadors in because of the construction of a few houses? When did the EU call in the Palestinian ambassadors about incitement that calls for Israel's destruction?" Netanyahu asked at a reception on Thursday. He also described the summoning of Israel's ambassadors over the construction plans as "hypocritical."

Last week's settlement announcement came just after US Secretary of State John Kerry departed from the region following his

latest round of peace talks

with the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Last summer, Kerry succeeded in bringing the two sides back to the negotiating table after a three-year deadlock; however, little progress appears to have been made since then.

pfd/kms (AFP, Reuters)

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