01/12/2012 14:50 GMT | Updated 01/12/2012 14:52 GMT

William Hague Warns Israel Over West Bank Settlement Expansions

The foreign secretary, William Hague, has urged Israel to reconsider its plans to expand settlements on the West Bank over fears the move will undermine the peace process in the region.

The country's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, announced the construction of 3,000 new homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, only days after Palestine was awarded non-member observer status by the UN General Assembly and less than a fortnight after Israeli and Palestinian forces agreed to a renewed ceasefire after bitter conflict and civilian deaths in Gaza.

In a statement released on Saturday, Hague said he was "extremely concerned" by the plans, adding that: "Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and undermine trust between the parties."

"If implemented, these plans would alter the situation on the ground on a scale that makes the two state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, increasingly difficult to achieve."

palestine west bank

Hague's warning came only days after Palestine was further recognised by the UN

"They would undermine Israel’s international reputation and create doubts about its stated commitment to achieving peace with the Palestinians," Hague's statement read.

"The UK strongly advises the Israeli Government to reverse this decision. The window for a two-state solution is closing, and we need urgent efforts by the parties and by the international community to achieve a return to negotiations, not actions which will make that harder."

Hague was joined by the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in attempts to dissuade Israel from building the settlements.

Clinton, who is set to step down from her post after serving the Obama administration for four years, said the US "has been very clear with Israel that these activities set back the cause of a negotiated peace".

Clinton made the remarks in ain Washington speech to an audience which included Avigdor Lieberman and Ehud Barak, Israel's foreign minister and defense ministers respectively.