EU Concerned by Recent Events in Jerusalem, West Bank

BRUSSELS, May 11, 2013 (WAFA) – The European Union Friday expressed concern by the developments on the ground in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, warning that they might undermine peace efforts.

A statement by the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said that the developments over the past week in East Jerusalem and the West Bank “have increased tensions on the ground and risk undermining current efforts to re-launch peace talks.”

Ashton, who expressed concern by these developments, said “it is important that those concerned exercise maximum restraint and refrain from any actions which could drive the sides to the conflict further apart.”

The statement said Ashton was particularly “disturbed” by the events that took place during Orthodox Easter Holy Fire celebrations in Jerusalem’s Old City when Israeli police prevented thousands of Christians from reaching the Holy Sepulcher, the unrest in the area of the al-Aqsa Mosque between Muslim worshippers and Jewish fanatics backed by police, and the temporary detention of the Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein.

“It is essential that access to the holy sites in Jerusalem for peaceful worship for all denominations is fully respected,” she said.

Ashton also said she was “very concerned” by reports of the approval of settlement plans for 300 houses at Beit EL near Ramallah in the West Bank.

“The EU has repeatedly declared settlements to be illegal under international law and to constitute an obstacle to peace,” said the EU official.

The Palestinian Authority and world governments have also condemned the Israeli settlement expansion plan, which they said would undermine renewed efforts by the United States to revive the stalled peace process and re-launch Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is planning to return to the Middle East in 10 days, his fourth since he took office earlier this year, in an effort to re-start peace talks.

Source: WAFA News