EU says Israeli plans for West Bank settlements "detrimental" to peace talks

Israel is pushing for tenders and permits for thousands of units

EU says Israeli plans for West Bank settlements "detrimental" to peace talks

Scene from the Palestinian city of Rawabi in the West Bank in June 2016 | Image: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Updated: 20.30

The European Union is calling on Israeli authorities to reconsider a decision to promote thousands of settlement units in the West Bank.

Earlier this week, Israel further promoted plans, tenders and permits for thousands of settlement units across the occupied territory.

These plans include settlements in the centre of Hebron for the first time since 2002.

Maja Kocijancic, spokesperson for EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, says: "We have also seen reports of construction work starting for the first new settlement in 20 years, Amihai, and of preparatory ground work being initiated in the sensitive area of Givat Hamatos in East Jerusalem, where further settlement construction would severely jeopardize the contiguity and viability of a future Palestinian state."

The European Union has asked for clarification from Israeli authorities, and conveyed an "expectation that they reconsider these decisions".

The EU says they are "detrimental" to on-going efforts towards meaningful peace talks.

Ms Kocijancic says the bloc's position on Israeli settlement construction and related activities - including recent evictions in East Jerusalem - is clear and has not changed.

"All settlement activity is illegal under international law, and it undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect for a lasting peace", Ms Kocijancic adds.

The EU says it will continue to engage with both parties and its international and regional partners to support a resumption of a meaningful process towards a negotiated two-state solution.

It says this is the only realistic and viable way to fulfil the legitimate aspirations of both parties.

It comes as US and Israeli officials pledged to continue economic cooperation, and agreed to further deepen relations.

The announcement came following the US-Israel Joint Economic Development Group (JEDG) - an annual economic policy dialogue between the two countries.

They also agreed to create a joint task force to exchange regulatory practices for improved business and investments.

The JEDG has met since 1985.