World leaders decry OK for eastern Jerusalem housing


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The head of the United Nations and a key European Union official denounced Israel’s approval of new housing in an eastern Jerusalem Jewish neighborhood.

More than 900 housing units in Har Homa were given final approval last week by the Interior Ministry’s Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee. The plan was first submitted for approval two years ago.

A spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement released Aug. 6 that "settlement activity in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is contrary to international law, and he is concerned by provocative actions on the ground. The Secretary-General supports ongoing efforts to find a way to resume peace talks, and underlines that creating an environment that is conducive to progress is vital."

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said that the project approval "has triggered fierce criticism from the Palestinians and the international community."

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat in a statement called the approval "a flagrant display of disrespect and disdain to the international community, which has repeatedly condemned Israeli settlement construction as an illegal obstacle to peace."

Approval of the project was delayed twice in recent months due to political considerations. Work likely will not begin for two years; the project still requires a contractor and infrastructure.

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