World Bulletin / News Desk
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered on Tuesday a reassessment of plans to build nearly 24,000 settler homes, saying he feared an international outcry that would divert attention from Israel's lobbying against a nuclear deal with Iran.
The right-wing Israeli leader announced the reversal in the face of stiff U.S. opposition to settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, and Palestinian anger that threatens three-month-old peace talks brokered by Washington.
“We are deeply concerned by these latest reports that over 20,000 additional units are in the early planning stages. We are currently seeking further explanation from the government of Israel. Our position on settlements is quite clear: We have always considered the settlements to be illegitimate,” said White House Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan.
State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki echoed Meehan, saying, “Our position on settlements is quite clear; we do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity. We've called on both sides to take steps to create a positive atmosphere for the negotiations,” during Tuesday’s press briefing.
Both Meehan and Psaki called on both sides to “take steps to create a positive atmosphere for the negotiations.”
“We do not consider settlement planning, even in its early stages, to be a step that creates a positive environment for the negotiations,” added Meehan.
Peace Now, which monitors settlement activity on occupied land said yesterday that the Housing Ministry had issued tenders for nearly 24,000 more settler homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
"With tenders for planning, what we are seeing is a very early stage that can open the door for construction not in the short term, but several years down the road," Peace Now said in a statement.
But it said the potential projects for 19,786 housing units in the West Bank and 4,000 in East Jerusalem were an important indicator of where the government stands on future building, even as it engages the Palestinians in land-for-peace talks.
Peace Now said one plan called for construction in a highly sensitive area sandwiched between Jerusalem and Ramallah, the Palestinian seat of government, and could impede any efforts to reach an agreement on the future of the holy city.
"The issuing of tenders for planning is unequivocal evidence that Netanyahu intends to prevent the real chances of a negotiated agreement and a two-state solution," Peace Now said.
It said the tenders included planning for 1,200 additional housing units for the E-1 area near Jerusalem, where under U.S. pressure Israel has suspended previous projects to build more than 3,000 settler homes.
Moscow, which denies its troops have a role in the takeover of Crimea, says people there - a small majority of whom are ethnic Russians - should have the right to secede
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to London to meet with his Russian, as Putin and French President Francois Hollande discussed "possibilities for stepping up international support" for a solution
"Syria is now the biggest humanitarian and peace and security crisis facing the world, with violence reaching unthinkable levels," Ban's press office said
In an interview with the France 24 news channel, Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki accused Saudi and Qatar of sponsoring terrorism in his country.
The building is reported to have had gas smells emanating from it for weeks.
His address to the Knesset was staunchly pro-Israeli, and he delighted his hosts by claiming Jewish ancestral roots and talking tough on Iran
The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran has said Russia is to build two new nuclear power plants in the country.
The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels have been involved in nearly two decades of conflict that spilled into eastern Congo
Egyptian authorities have tightened their control over the border with the Hamas-run Gaza Strip since last July's ouster of elected president Mohamed Morsi by the Egyptian army.
Edward Dolinsky, head of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, made a lobbying trip to Jerusalem but not received by officials from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government.
"Jordan did not bow to these demands because the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) itself has not adopted a unified position on the need to isolate Qatar over its foreign policies," the lawmaker said on condition of anonymity.
Mustafa Jemilev became the first Crimean Tatar leader to meet with a Russian leader in 200 years. The meeting lasted half an hour, after which Jemilev revealed that the two sides had agreed to continue talks.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said "With Chancellor Merkel we both believe that signing of the association agreement with Ukraine as soon as possible would be beneficial"
Belarus would ask Russia to send "no more than 12 to 15 planes", indicating that the request had been made under a clause of a "union treaty"
Police stopped protesters from the RCD and MSP who were showing red signs with the word 'Boycott', saying their demonstration was illegal
The one-day meeting appeared to mirror a series of "Friends of Syria" conferences in which Western and Arab nations pledged political and financial support for the rebels