U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has condemned Israeli settlement plans
and reassured Palestinians that the United States is committed to the
creation of a "viable" Palestinian state.
Biden said Wednesday Israel's plan to build housing in disputed East
Jerusalem "undermines" the trust needed to restart Israeli-Palestinian
The vice president also said Palestinians deserve an independent state with an uninterrupted territory.
Biden spoke alongside Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Wednesday,
after the two held talks in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.
The vice president traveled to the region this week to launch indirect peace talks between the two sides.
Biden met with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem Tuesday, the same day
Israel's Interior Ministry announced plans to develop 1,600 new
apartments in East Jerusalem. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the
capital of a future state.
U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley says he finds the timing
of Israel's announcement "unusual." He told reporters Wednesday the
U.S. is talking to the Israeli government to try to understand what
happened and why.
Israel's interior minister apologized Wednesday for the timing of the
announcement, saying it had embarrassed Biden, who was making his first
visit to Israel since taking office. But Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu took no steps to reverse the housing decision.
The European Union on Wednesday urged Israel to reverse its housing
decision. Foreign Affairs Chief Catherine Ashton urged Israel to
refrain from making unilateral decisions that could jeopardize peace