UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on Israel to “halt and reverse” its decision last week to build nearly 800 new homes for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank.
The decision is “a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution, and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace” in the Middle East, Guterres said in a statement on Monday.
“The establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.
“Settlement expansion… further erodes the possibility of ending the occupation and establishing a contiguous and viable sovereign Palestinian State, based on the pre-1967 lines,” Guterres said.
Israel on Sunday approved the construction of 780 homes in the occupied West Bank, ordered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on January 11.
All Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank are regarded as illegal under international law and by much of the international community.
Last November, Mike Pompeo became the first US secretary of state to visit a Jewish settlement in an official capacity, months after the US broke with international law and international community consensus to announce it no longer considered settlements as unlawful.
There are currently some 450,000 Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank, living among 2.8 million Palestinians.
Also on Monday, the United Kingdom expressed concerns over Israel’s approval for the construction of the settlement units, warning the move could threaten future peace negotiations and calling for construction to stop.
“Settlements are illegal under international law and risk undermining the physical viability of the two-state solution. We call for the construction of these in East Jerusalem and elsewhere in the West Bank to cease immediately,” a Foreign Office spokesperson said in a statement.