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Netanyahu: EU settlement guidelines 'in way' of peace

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(JERUSALEM) - Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday slammed the EU's stance on Jewish settlements in the West Bank, saying they would hamper peace talks with the Palestinians.

His criticism came after Israel approved the construction of more than 1,000 new settlement units, in a move which infuriated Palestinians ahead of Wednesday's resumption of peace negotiations.

"I think Europe, the European guidelines by the EU, have actually undermined peace," he said during a meeting with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

The EU published guidelines last month that will forbid its 28 member states from dealing with or funding any Israeli "entities" in the occupied Palestinian territories, including the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Jewish settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law.

The guidelines "have hardened Palestinian positions," Netanyahu said.

"They seek an unrealistic end that everybody knows is not going to happen, and I think they stand in the way of reaching a solution which will only be reached by negotiations by the parties, and not by an external dictate."

The Palestinians want their future state to be drawn up based on the so-called 1967 lines, which existed before Israel seized the West Bank in the Six-Day War of that year.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are due to resume US-brokered peace talks in Jerusalem on Wednesday, nearly three years after the last round broke down over the settlements issue.

Israel approved the release of 26 Palestinian prisoners before talks begin, but on Sunday also gave the green light for more than 1,000 new settler homes to be built in the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem.

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