Topic: Middle East settlement
Russia is concerned over plans by the Israeli authorities to demolish some two dozen houses inhabited by Arabs in East Jerusalem, which may jeopardize peace efforts in the region, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.
The Israeli government intends to create an archeological park in East Jerusalem's al-Bustan neighborhood. Plans include the demolition of 22 residential houses in the area.
The ministry said the move, which has been criticized by the Palestinians, is likely to hamper the peace dialogue in the region.
"The announced intentions to demolish a number of houses in East Jerusalem are yet to be approved but the information about these plans has caused concern in Moscow. It [plan] touches upon one of the most sensitive issues of final settlement," a statement published on the ministry's website said.
The ministry called on the sides to avoid making statements or taking practical steps that could "predetermine the outcome of negotiations on the issues of Jerusalem, borders, refugees, security, and water resources."
Following the announcement of the plan, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said Israel was going to "destroy everything that had been achieved during the talks." Palestinian-appointed governor of Jerusalem Adnan al-Husseini has described the move as "municipal colonization."
The United States has also expressed its concern over the Israeli plans.
Israeli-Palestinian direct peace talks came to a halt in December 2008, when Israel launched an attack on the Gaza Strip in a bid to put an end to the firing of homemade rockets at southern Israel by Palestinian militants based in the enclave. The conflict left 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.
Palestinians have so far cited ongoing Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, both occupied by Israel since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, as a main obstacle to resuming peace talks.
In March, the Arab League supported the U.S.-backed initiative of holding Israeli-Palestinian indirect talks. Israel, a major United States' ally in the Middle East, has also welcomed the talks.
The situation in the region was aggravated by a recent Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound humanitarian aid convoy. The raid on the six-ship Freedom Flotilla, which took place in neutral waters of the Mediterranean Sea on May 31, left nine dead and dozens injured.
MOSCOW, June 23 (RIA Novosti)
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