BEIRUT

Middle East

Germany 'deeply concerned' by Israeli settlement plans

A Palestinian man works at a new housing development in the Jewish West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim, near Jerusalem, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

BERLIN: Germany said Monday it was "deeply concerned" about Israeli plans for new settlements but would not "for the moment" summon its ambassador to Berlin.

Ahead of talks this week between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert called on Israel to withdraw its plan to build new Jewish settler homes.

"The German government is deeply concerned about the announcement of the Israeli government to accept tenders for 3,000 new homes mainly in east Jerusalem and the West Bank," he told a regular briefing.

"We urge the Israeli government to reverse this announcement. Both sides should act constructively and avoid obstructing what is urgently needed, namely the resumption of substantial direct peace talks."

When asked whether Germany would follow France and Britain in summoning the Israel ambassador, a foreign ministry spokesman said Berlin had no immediate plans to do so.

Seibert said a Berlin meeting this week between Merkel and Netanyahu and most of their cabinets would also go ahead as planned despite the criticism.

But in sharply worded remarks ahead of the talks, he warned that with the settlements announcement, Israel was torpedoing peace efforts.

"Israel is undermining faith in its willingness to negotiate and the geographic space for a future Palestinian state, which must be the basis for a two-state solution, is disappearing," he said.

Tensions between Israel and Germany had already flared last week when Berlin opted to abstain in a United Nations vote granting upgraded diplomatic status to the Palestinians. Israel reportedly asked Berlin to vote "no".

Media reports said this week's talks in Berlin could even be called off due to the friction.

 

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