On Thursday a senior United Nations official called a new plan for Israel to build new housing in an annexed area of East Jerusalem a “provocative action” which could significantly hinder September’s planned peace talks between Israel and Palestinian leaders.
A statement from the office of Robert Serry, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process remarked, “If confirmed, this provocative action undermines ongoing efforts by the international community to bring the parties back to negotiations and shape a positive agenda for September.
“This announcement comes only one week after a separate decision by the government of Israel regarding the construction of additional housing units in another settlement in East Jerusalem which was widely criticized by the international community.”
Serry will discuss the matter with the Quartet, a group of four countries and factions which have worked towards a two-state peace agreement. The Quartet had previously condemned the plan during the start of its planning in March of 2010.
The Quartet is comprised of the European Union, the Russian Federation, the United Nations, and the United States.
Earlier in the week Israel’s Interior Ministry approved and announced plans to build 1,600 new housing units in a part of East Jerusalem annexed in 1967 during the Six-Day War. These units are in addition to a plan announced last week by Israel to build another 900 units in East Jerusalem.
According to the UN News Center, Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of the future independent Palestinian State. The area has been and continues to be a major point of contention in peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who is in Seoul, South Korea for the “Together for Africa” campaign sponsored by the South Korean Red Cross and UNICEF, has previously condemned building in the occupied territories and other Israeli policies as extremely detrimental to the peace process.
However, despite calling for both sides to have ‘courage for peace,’ the UN has stated that both sides have committed acts which have continually hindered chances for a settled peace.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai said that the housing expansion was in response to protesters in East Jerusalem demanding social and economic reforms and was necessary in order to relieve the housing shortage for Israeli citizens living the area.