WASHINGTON, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) -- The United States had raised " serious" concerns with Israel over its latest decision on settlement building just two days ahead of the resumption of final status negotiations with the Palestinians, the State Department said on Monday.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Monday that the Palestinian side was mulling over boycotting the peace talks slated for Wednesday in Jerusalem in response to Israel's announcement on Sunday to build 1,200 new housing units on occupied lands in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.
"And we have made our serious concerns about this recent announcement known to the government of Israel," spokeswoman Marie Harf said Monday at a daily press briefing.
"We do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activities," Harf repeated Washington's long-held position, which is shared by the majority of the international community.
Hours after the housing announcement, Israel unveiled the names of 26 veteran Palestinian prisoners to be released this week as part of a deal for the resumption of the Jerusalem talks.
Harf hailed the move as a "positive step" forward, saying "It shows that the government of Israel is investing in success of the Palestinian Authority as a partner for peace."
She said U.S. peace envoy Martin Indyk and his deputy Frank Lowenstein are in the region to have a number of meetings to "help facilitate these negotiations."
She said "It's important to set expectations" as Secretary of State John Kerry is not involved in the upcoming negotiations.
Kerry joined chief negotiators of the two sides late last month in Washington for two-day initial talks, in which the two rivals agreed to meet further to discuss all the final status issues -- Jerusalem, security, the Jewish settlements, borders and refugees, and achieve a final-status agreement in nine months.
The two parties had agreed to meet again in Jericho on the West Bank following their Jerusalem talks.