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Occupation magazine - Settlements
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More heat on Israel over settlements
From correspondents in Brussels
Agence France Presse
July 22, 2009
ISRAEL has come under intense diplomatic heat over its settlement activity in occupied East Jerusalem, with the European Union and Russia warning it not to violate a Middle East peace plan.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy also repeated `the need for a complete freeze` of settlement activity after talks with Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, while Israel`s ambassador to Paris was summoned by the foreign ministry.
The warnings overnight came after it emerged that planning authorities had given the go-ahead to a project to build 20 new apartments on the site of a former hotel in the Arab half of the Holy City.
However, Israel rejected the calls in separate statements from its ministers.
`The settlement should be stopped immediately in line with the roadmap,` Russian foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said, referring to an international peace plan endorsed by the Israelis and Palestinians in 2003.
The apartments are due to be built on a site in Sheikh Jarrah, one of the most sensitive and upmarket neighbourhoods closest to the so-called Green Line that separates East and West Jerusalem.
Israel`s ambassador in Washington, Michael Oren, was summoned to the State Department earlier this month to be told the project should be halted.
France echoed that summons overnight, with Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner saying the Israeli ambassador Daniel Shek `will be received this afternoon or tomorrow` local time and given an identical message.
His comments came as Mr Sarkozy had a working lunch in Paris with his veteran Egyptian counterpart Mr Mubarak, whose country is one of only two Arab states to have full diplomatic relations with Israel.
The EU`s current Swedish presidency also weighed in, warning Israel against any `provocative` action in East Jerusalem.
`The presidency of the European Union urges Israel to refrain from provocative actions in East Jerusalem, including home demolitions and evictions, as stated also by the Quartet 26 June 2009,` it said. `Such actions are illegal under international law.`
The EU was concerned at the latest in a series of eviction orders issued to families in East Jerusalem, the presidency said.
`We have raised our concerns with the Israeli government and call on Israel to suspend these eviction notices immediately.`
Despite the criticism, Israel insisted that its `right` to all of Jerusalem was not up for discussion.
`Israel is working and will continue to work in accordance with its vital national interests, especially with respect to Jerusalem,` said deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon. `Our right to Jerusalem includes its development and that is not subject to debate.`
`Our rights in Jerusalem, including its development, cannot be challenged,` Mr Ayalon said subsequently.
Eli Yishai, interior minister and deputy prime minister, also said: `Israel is not a subsidiary of any other country in the world. The government and the state of Israel have the right to build anywhere in Israel when such projects have obtained all legal approvals.`
Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it in a move not recognised by the international community. It sees all of Jerusalem as its `eternal, undivided` capital and does not consider construction in East Jerusalem to be settlement activity.
The Palestinians want to make the east of the city - home to some 200,000 Jewish Israelis in 121 settlements and 268,000 Palestinians - the capital of their future state.
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