RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories (AFP) – Middle East peace talks could "collapse" due to continuing Israeli settlement expansion, a senior Palestinian official warned Tuesday, on the eve of the scheduled resumption of the fragile process.
"Settlement expansion goes against the US 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 settlement units in east Jerusalem and the West Bank in the days leading up to Wednesday's scheduled new round of direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.
The approval on Sunday of 793 settlement housing units in annexed east Jerusalem and 394 elsewhere in the West Bank -- followed by Tuesday's separate announcement of a further 942 in east Jerusalem -- hiked up tension ahead of the meeting of Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.
"This settlement expansion is unprecedented," Abed Rabbo said. "It threatens to make talks fail even before they've started."
US Secretary of State John Kerry during a visit to Colombia on Monday urged the Palestinians "not to react adversely" to the weekend Israeli settlement 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.
The last peace talks broke down in 2010 on the issue of settlement building.