Foreign secretary Philip Hammond has criticised the Israeli government's decision to claim nearly 1,000 acres of privately owned land in the West Bank.
Israel took over 990 acres of Palestinian land near Bethlehem on Sunday in a move that could suggest the imminent construction of settlements in the area. Anti-settlement group Peace Now said the appropriation of land by Israel was the largest in 30 years.
Hammond released a statement on Monday condemning the Israeli move and suggesting it could have negative consequences on an ongoing ceasefire in the region.
The full statement is below:
The UK deplores the Israeli government's expropriation of 988 acres of land around the settlement of Etzion near Bethlehem. This is a particularly ill-judged decision that comes at a time when the priority must be to build on the ceasefire in Gaza. It will do serious damage to Israel's standing in the international community.
Our position on settlements is clear: they are illegal under international law, present an obstacle to peace, and take us further away from a two-state solution at a time when negotiations to achieve this objective urgently need to be resumed.
All efforts should currently be focused on securing a durable ceasefire in Gaza and the lasting peace that the Palestinian and Israeli people deserve. We strongly urge the government of Israel to reverse this decision.
Siraj Datoo is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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