The United States is opposed to building new Jewish settlements in annexed Arab east Jerusalem, the White House said Monday, calling for fresh talks on the future of the disputed territory.
“The United States opposes new Israeli construction in East Jerusalem,” spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
“The status of Jerusalem is a permanent status issue that must be resolved by the parties through negotiations and supported by the international community,” he said, adding that the two sides should return to the negotiating table “as soon as possible.”
“The United States recognizes that Jerusalem is a deeply important issue for Israelis and Palestinians, and for Jews, Muslims, and Christians,” Gibbs said.
He added: “We believe that through good faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem, and safeguards its status for people around the world.”
Gibbs issued his statement amid news reports in Israel which said the government had invited tenders for the building of hundreds of more homes in Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem.
East Jerusalem settlements already house some 200,000 Jewish settlers alongside its 270,000 Palestinian residents.
Israel’s continued expansion of settlements is one of the biggest obstacles to the resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians, now suspended for a year.
Israel, which captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed it in a move which has not been recognized by the international community.
Israel insists that the entire city is its “eternal, indivisible” capital, but Palestinians are determined to make the city’s eastern sector the capital of their promised state, a goal endorsed earlier this month by the European Union.