By AFP – 30 June 2010
BRUSSELS — The planned demolition of Palestinian houses in east Jerusalem, as part of an archaeological project, is “an obstacle to peace,” EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said Wednesday.
Jewish “settlements and the demolition of homes are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible,” Ashton warned in a statement.
The European Union’s High Representative stressed that the EU has never recognised Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem.
“If there is to be genuine peace, a way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states,” Ashton added.
The Palestinians reluctantly agreed to launch the indirect talks in May after months of shuttle diplomacy by US envoy George Mitchell, but said they would not move to direct talks without a complete Israeli settlement freeze.
Ashton called on Israel “to refrain from measures which may undermine the ongoing (indirect) proximity talks,” where mediators shuttle between the two parties.
“These talks enjoy our full support and the parties need to engage seriously in these negotiations,” the EU foreign affairs chief underlined.
Israeli police clashed on Sunday with some 200 Palestinian protesters in an Arab neighbourhood of east Jerusalem that is the planned site of the controversial archaeological park.
The clashes occurred in Silwan, an Arab neighbourhood, which has been the focus of the plan by Jerusalem municipality to raze 22 Arab homes to make way for an archaeological park.
Silwan is part of the so-called Holy Basin, just outside the walls of Jerusalem’s famed Old City, and is believed to be the site of ancient Jerusalem during the time of the biblical kings David and Solomon.
It is now a crowded Arab neighbourhood in a part of the city occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move not recognised internationally.
Israel considers the whole of Jerusalem as its “eternal and indivisible” capital while the Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their promised state.