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State Dept. objects to E. Jerusalem building

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Obama administration expressed "strong concerns" to Israel about building plans in an eastern Jerusalem neighborhood.

"We have seen reports that plans for 600 housing units in Pisgat Ze’ev in East Jerusalem, originally deposited in 2008, have advanced in the approval process, although we understand that the total number of units has been reduced from the original plan," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said. "We also understand that this is not a final approval for the project, but it is a step in that direction. We have relayed our strong concerns to the Government of Israel that this kind of activity, particularly as we try to relaunch meaningful negotiations, is counterproductive and undermines trust between the parties."

The Obama administration is endeavoring to get Palestinians and Israelis back to peace talks. It has praised Israel’s current government for a partial freeze in the West Bank, but tensions remain over eastern Jerusalem, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to extend the freeze.

"We continue to urge both parties to refrain from unilateral actions that, whether intended to or not, undermine trust and efforts to resume negotiations that will bring an end to the conflict and result in a two-state solution," Crowley said. "We believe it is of great importance that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians resume as soon as possible."

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