Middle East peace talks could "collapse" due to continuing Israeli settlement expansion, a senior Palestinian Authority (PA) official warned Tuesday, on the eve of the scheduled resumption of the fragile process.
"Settlement expansion goes against the U.S. administration's pledges and threatens to cause the negotiations' collapse," Yasser Abed Rabbo told AFP.
The comments came after Israeli authorities approved the construction of a total of more than 2,000 homes in Jerusalem and the Biblical Jewish heartland of Judea and Samaria, in the days leading up to Wednesday's scheduled new round of direct talks between the Israel and the PA.
The approval on Sunday of 793 housing units in Jerusalem and 394 elsewhere in Judea and Samaria, followed by Tuesday's separate announcement of a further 942 in Jerusalem – “hiked up tension ahead of the meeting of Israeli and Palestinian negotiators,” according to AFP.
"This settlement expansion is unprecedented," Abed Rabbo said. "It threatens to make talks fail even before they've started."
U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, during a visit to Colombia on Monday, urged the PA "not to react adversely" to the weekend Israeli housing announcement.
Kerry, who took the lead in securing last month's resumption of peace talks after a three-year hiatus, stressed the need for the two sides to return to the negotiating table as planned on Wednesday in Jerusalem.