Britain has condemned Israel's decision to officially recognize the Ariel University Center as a full-fledged university.
"We are deeply disappointed by the decision to upgrade Ariel's university center. Ariel is beyond the Green Line in a settlement that is illegal according to international law," Alistair Burt, Britain's minister for the Middle East, said in a statement released Thursday.
"This decision will deepen the presence of the settlements in the Palestinian territories and will create another obstacle to peace," said Burt.
Burt also condemned the Israeli government's decision to expand construction in Jerusalem's Gilo, Givat Hamatos and Ramat Shlomo neighborhoods, saying, "These are further profoundly provocative actions that run contrary to the Fourth Geneva Convention. "By taking these steps, despite the international community repeatedly raising our profound concerns," he added, "the Israeli government is damaging Israel's international reputation."
He went as far as to praise Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, saying that in a conversation with Abbas last week he praised "the measured response the Palestinian leadership had been taking in response to Israel's recent settlement announcements."
On Monday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak confirmed a government decision to officially recognize the Ariel University Center as a university, after Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein upheld the Judea and Samaria Higher Education Council's (CHE-JS) decision to accredit the school.
Major General Nitzan Alon, the Head of the IDF's Central Command, later signed a document that grants the center formal approval as a full-fledged university.
The National Council for Higher Education has spoken out against recognizing Ariel, branded the decision to do so political and filed a petition against it to the Supreme Court.
In September, British Foreign Secretary William Hague expressed “disappointment” over the Israeli government’s decision to approve the recognition of the Ariel University Center as a full-fledged university.
“This would lead to the creation of Israel’s first university beyond the Green Line, in a settlement illegal under international law. It would further entrench the presence of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and create an additional barrier to peace with the Palestinians,” said Hague.