The UK, France, Germany and Portugal – the EU members of the 15-seat UN Security Council (Germany and Portugal are rotating members, the UK and France are permanent members) issued a joint statement today requesting that Israel cease all settlement construction in both East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The statement reiterates the EU position that the settlements are illegal under international law and calls upon the Israeli government to halt “all settlement activity.” Israel has, since this summer, been ramping up settlement construction throughout the West Bank and especially, in East Jerusalem. Recent housing disputes over Palestinian-owned East Jerusalem have prompted much debate within Israel and the U.S.
The report coincides with a statement by Catherine Ashton, a British MP who serves as the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, calling on Israel to “suspend publication” of a tender seeking construction bids for 1,000 new Israeli housing units in East Jerusalem, Beitar Ilit and Givat Ze’ev.
The English-language version of the statement is reproduced below. It was posted on the website of the UK’s UN Mission:
“We have just heard a briefing from Mr Fernandez-Taranco about the situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian territories. One of the themes that emerged was the severely damaging effect that increased settlement construction and settler violence is having on the ground and on the prospects of a return to negotiations. The UK, France, Germany and Portugal are dismayed by these wholly negative developments.
Israel’s continuing announcements to accelerate the construction of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem, send a devastating message. We call on the Israeli government to reverse these steps. 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. Settlements are illegal under international law and represent a serious blow to the Quartet’s efforts to restart peace negotiations. All settlement activity, including in East Jerusalem, must cease immediately.
We condemn the disturbing escalation of violence by settlers including the burning of the Nebi Akasha mosque in West Jerusalem and the Burqa mosque in the West Bank. It is clear that these deliberately provocative attacks on places of worship were designed to aggravate tensions. We welcome the condemnation of these attacks by Israeli leaders, and call on the Israeli government to fulfil its commitment to bring the perpetrators to justice and to put an end to impunity. The package of measures announced by Prime Minister Netanyahu in response to settler violence goes in the right direction. 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.
A bold demonstration of political will and leadership is needed from both sides to break the current impasse. We call the parties to present as soon as possible to the Quartet comprehensive proposals on territory and security, following its statement of September 23rd. We look to both parties to return to negotiations as soon as possible. We remain ready to contribute to achieving the goal of successful negotiations.
We continue to be seriously concerned about the current stalemate in the Middle East Peace Process. Our primary goal remains a just and lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We are committed to working to turn this ambition into reality: the creation of a sovereign, independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian State living in peace and security side by side with Israel.
For those negotiations to be successful, they will need to achieve four things:
An agreement on the borders of the two states, based on June 4 1967 lines with equivalent land swaps agreed between the parties.
Second, security arrangements that respect Palestinian sovereignty and show that the occupation is over, and that protect Israeli security, preventing the resurgence of terrorism and dealing effectively with new and emerging threats.
Third, a just, fair and agreed solution to the refugee question.
And fourth, fulfilment of the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem. Through negotiations, the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both states must be resolved.
We believe that Israel’s security and the realisation of the Palestinians’ right to statehood are not opposing goals. On the contrary they are mutually reinforcing objectives. But they will not be achieved while settlement building and settler violence continues.”