Canada

Canada 'regrets' Israeli settlements

Canada has voiced muted criticism over the planned expansion of 1,600 new Israeli housing units in disputed East Jerusalem.
The east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Ramat is seen from a distance on Wednesday. Canada voiced muted criticism Thursday over the planned expansion of 1,600 new Israeli housing units in Ramat. ((Dan Balilty/Associated Press))

Canada voiced muted criticism Thursday over the planned expansion of 1,600 new Israeli housing units in East Jerusalem.

In a statement released in Ottawa, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Canada "regrets" Israel's settlement decision, because it undermines the pursuit of peace in the region.

The statement echoes Washington's strong condemnation of the move, which cast a pall over U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden's visit to Israel this week to revive the stalled Middle East peace process.

Biden was there to mediate indirect peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Israelis and Palestinians must build an atmosphere to support negotiations, not complicate them, he said.

The Interior Ministry announced the construction plans just as Biden was wrapping up a series of meetings with Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A spokesman for Netanyahu said he was unaware of the construction plan just announced by the Interior Ministry.

Efrat Orbach, an Interior Ministry spokeswoman, said the new homes are to be built in Ramat Shlomo, a neighbourhood for ultra-Orthodox Jews in east Jerusalem.

She noted there is a 60-day appeals period, indicating the decision may yet be changed.

now