RAMALLAH/JERUSALEM, Aug. 11 (Xinhua) -- Israel's decision to expand settlements on its occupied lands has cast a shadow over the upcoming new round of peace talks with the Palestinians.
Israel unveiled its bids Sunday to build 1,200 housing units in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, just three days after the U.S. State Department announced that the two sides wound have their second round of peace talks in Jerusalem on Aug. 14 and then a third in Jericho of the West Bank.
Later in the day, Israel approved a list of 26 Palestinian prisoners set to be released in the next 48 hours, as a conciliatory gesture to the Palestinian authority amid efforts to resume direct peace talks.
This is the first batch of prisoners out of a total of 104 set to be freed as initiated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The rest are to be released in phases in the next eight months.
Despite Israel's appeasing gesture, the Palestinians were largely outraged.
During a meeting on Sunday with U.S special peace envoy to the Middle East Martin Indyk in Ramallah, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that the issue of settlement building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem "will undermine the principle of the two-state solution and the U.S. efforts to revive the peace process."
Palestinian negotiator Mohamed Ishtaya told Xinhua that Israel's move "is a deliberate blow on the international and U.S. efforts exerted to achieve peace in the region."
"Peace and settlements are contradictory and can never meet," he said.
Halting settlement was a major Palestinian demand to resume the stalled peace talks, he said.
Ishtaya said the Palestinians have presented a protest to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in the hope that the United States would urge the Israeli government to end settlement expansions.
Meanwhile, Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the executive committee of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said in a press statement that Israel "is not stopping its consecutive strikes against the international efforts... Such strikes are aiming at blocking the negotiations."
He slammed Israel for "trying to empty the process of the U.S.-sponsored peace negotiations before it is really launched," adding, "After this serious decision, I don't believe that the Palestinians are in need for meaningless negotiations with Israel."
Israel, however, defended its stance on expansion of settlements and criticized the European Union (EU) regulations that excludes annexed territories in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights as part of Israel.
After talks with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle Sunday, Israeli chief peace talks negotiator Tzipi Livni dismissed the guidelines, published by the European Commission three weeks ago, as a "unilateral step" and asked the Europeans to "wait for the results of the talks."
JERUSALEM, Aug. 11 (Xinhua) -- Israel on Sunday announced invitation for bids to build 1,200 housing units on its occupied lands in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, only three days before it enters a new round of peace talks with the Palestinians.
According to the Israeli Housing Ministry, about 800 housing units are planned in Jewish settlements beyond the 1967 borderlines in east Jerusalem, and 400 housing units in the West Bank. Full story
WASHINGTON, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- The Israelis and Palestinians will have their second round of peace talks in Jerusalem on Aug. 14 and then a third in Jericho of the West Bank, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday.
"Negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians will be resuming Aug. 14 in Jerusalem, and will be followed by a meeting in Jericho," spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters at a daily press briefing. Full story