BEIRUT

Middle East

Israel settlement plans 'message' to Kerry not to return: Erakat

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, listens to Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat make a statement to the press after meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the presidential compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)

RAMALLAH: Israeli plans unveiled Friday to build over 1,800 settler homes are a signal to US Secretary of State John Kerry not to pursue his peace push, a top Palestinian negotiator said.

"The new settlement construction plan is a message from (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu to Kerry not to come back to the region to continue his efforts in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks," Saeb Erakat told AFP.

"Every time Kerry has stepped up his efforts, returning to the region (for more talks), Netanyahu has stepped up his efforts to destroy the peace process," Erakat said.

" Netanyahu is determined to destroy the two-state solution.

"It is high time we held Israel accountable for its crimes," he added.

The Israeli housing ministry announced the plans for 1,076 new settlement units in annexed east Jerusalem and 801 in the occupied West Bank, said the Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now.

The housing ministry was not immediately available for comment.

The move comes a week after Kerry visited the region in his latest effort to push Israeli and Palestinian leaders towards an elusive peace deal.

Kerry kick-started negotiations in July after a three-year hiatus, but his 10th visit was clouded by bitter recriminations from both sides, who accused each other of lacking commitment to building peace after decades of conflict.

 

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