The EU accused Israel of riding roughshod through "obligations" surrounding peace efforts Sunday, by granting legal status to new and existing settlements in Palestinian territories.
European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said decisions to proceed with 2,600 new housing units in the settlement of Givat Hamatos and to legalise housing in West Bank outposts were "unacceptable" and "run against roadmap obligations."
"Settlements are illegal under international law. These decisions should be reversed," she said in a statement released overnight Saturday.
Her condemnation followed that of UN leader Ban Ki-moon, but was issued before Israel published a list of 477 Palestinian prisoners to be released next week as part of the deal to free Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who has been in captivity in Gaza for more than five years.
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"The proposed constructions in Givat Hamatos are of particular concern as they would cut the geographic contiguity between Jerusalem and Bethlehem," Ashton underlined.
Frustrated in her role as negotiator for the Quartet of international powers trying to jumpstart peace talks -- the United States, Russia, the EU and the UN -- she said the Israeli policy on settlement activities ran contrary to "Israel's stated commitment to this process."
She added: "Both parties are responsible for the creation of an environment of trust conducive to negotiations."
The Quartet launched a new bid to restart peace talks on the day that Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas launched its pending application for Palestinian membership of the United Nations.
The Palestinian Authority has rejected direct talks with Israel since a freeze on settlement building was ended in September 2010.