Ma'an News Agency
November 9, 2010 - 1:00am

WASHINGTON (Ma'an) -- US officials expressed deep disappointment Monday following the announcement of advanced planning for new housing units in occupied East Jerusalem.

"It is counterproductive to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the parties. We have long urged both parties to avoid actions which could undermine trust, including in Jerusalem, and we will continue to work to resume direct negotiations to address this and other final status issues," US State Department spokesman Phillip Crowley said at a DC news meeting with reporters.

The issue, Crowley added, would be raised at the next meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, scheduled for Thursday in New York.

On Monday, more than 1,000 homes were approved for construction in occupied and illegally annexed East Jerusalem, along with a second plan to build 800 homes in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

Commenting on statements from officials in Israel, which blamed the country's Interior Ministry for the announcement saying the prime minister's office was unaware of the issue, Crowley noted that "this is not the first time we have experienced a situation where one element of the government or a government may not know what is happening in a different bureau, a different agency, or a different level of government."

In March, plans to build 1,600 new settlement units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem were announced during the visit of US Vice President Joseph Biden to Israel.

According to an Israeli government statement released at the time, Netanyahu summoned Interior Minister Eli Yishai and "expressed his displeasure at the timing of the announcement of another stage in the planning process of a Jerusalem building project."

The US official continued to express his concern over the move, saying that "these kinds of announcements undermine trust. They make it more difficult for the leaders to move forward."

He noted the Palestinian position on 'no negotiations without a halt to settlement construction' was an attempt to "resolve these things outside of negotiation," commenting that "we once again continue to encourage the parties to get back into negotiations. This is the only way that you resolve issues like borders. And if and when you’re able to resolve issues like borders, then some of these issues become academic. "

Clinton is expected to hold a videoconference with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Wednesday, as well as Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit, ahead of Netanyahu's visit to New York.


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