European members of the UN Security Council have demanded that Israel immediately halt its continued construction of settlements in occupied Palestinian territories and condemned growing violence by Israeli settlers.
The four EU nations want peace negotiations restarted
European nations called on Israel to immediately cease all settlement activity in occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, following a United Nations Security Council meeting on Tuesday on Israeli-Palestinian developments.
In a joint statement the UK, France, Germany and Portugal - all members of the European Union and current members of the Security Council - said they were "dismayed" by Israel's continued construction of settlements and called on the Israeli government to reverse actions which they said had jeopardized peace negotiations.
"The viability of the Palestinian state that we want to see and the two-state solution that is essential for Israel's long-term security are threatened by the systematic and deliberate expansion of settlements," they said.
These settlements "represent a serious blow to the Quartet's efforts to restart peace negotiations." The Quartet is made up of the UN, the US, Russia and the EU.
Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague later issued his own condemnation of the Israeli government's plans for 1,028 additional housing units.
The most recent set of announcements regarding new or expanded settlements "make it ever harder to achieve the common goal of international efforts: a contiguous Palestinian state living side-by-side in security with Israel with Jerusalem as a shared capital," Hague said.
In the past 12 months, plans for nearly 4,000 new houses for settlers in East Jerusalem have been approved - the highest number in five years. Israel also announced plans to accelerate construction of another 2,000 houses in the West Bank in November.
Settlements are illegal under international law
Concerns were also raised by the four EU representatives on the council over "the disturbing escalation of violence by settlers." They cited the burning of the Nebi Akasha mosque in West Jerusalem earlier this month and the Burqa mosque in the West Bank, describing them as deliberate attempts to stoke tension, and they called on the Israeli government to fulfill its commitment to bring the perpetrators to justice.
"The package of measures announced by Prime Minister Netanyahu in response to settler violence goes in the right direction," the statement read.
"We look forward to seeing the results of these measures, and to seeing those behind the violence punished to the full extent of the law."
Direct Israeli-Palestinian talks have stalled for more than a year.
European leaders called on both parties to break the current impasse and return to the negotiating table as soon as possible.
Author: Charlotte Chelsom-Pill
Editor: Michael Lawton