EU Tells Israeli Ambassador of Concerns over Settlements

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The European Union called in Israel's ambassador on Thursday to express its concerns over his country's plans to build thousands of new settler homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

A spokeswoman said Ambassador David Walzer met Pierre Vimont, number two in the European External Action Service, the EU's diplomatic service, who underlined "the EU's concern about the Israeli announcement."

"The procedure of summoning an ambassador is a very exceptional one; normally we transmit the message locally to the authorities," spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said.

Israel is facing a storm in Europe over the settlement plans, with several nations this week summoning Israeli envoys to protest the Jewish state's announcement it would move forward with construction in one of the most sensitive tracts of West Bank land near annexed east Jerusalem.

The Israeli move, which came after the Palestinians won the rank of a non-member observer state at the United Nations last week, also drew criticism from the Jewish state's closest ally, the United States.

Kocijancic recalled that EU foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton said on Sunday that both sides should avoid any action that could jeopardize the immediate return to negotiations.

EU foreign ministers are expected to discuss the issue when they meet Monday, with one diplomatic source suggesting they could take a more critical stance on Israel as a result of its settlement announcement.

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