UK
13/11/2013 07:41 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli PM, Demands End To Settlement Construction Plans

Israel’s prime minister has sensationally ordered that his housing minister halt construction plans to build 25,000 homes in the disputed West Bank settlements.

He said the plans, announced by Uri Ariel yesterday, would create unnecessary friction with the international community.

west bank settlement homes

Buildings under construction in the north of the Westbank

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At a time when Israel is trying to persuade the rest of the world to keep up pressure on Iran’s nuclear programme, Benjamin Netanyahu said he had asked Ariel "to reconsider" the plans, the Independent reported.

“This is a meaningless step - legally and in practice - and an action that creates an unnecessary confrontation with the international community at a time when we are making an effort to persuade elements in the international community to reach a better deal with Iran," he said.

He noted that Mr Ariel, a member of the pro-settlement Jewish Home Party, had drawn up the plan “without any advance co-ordination”.

The US had earlier said it was "deeply concerned" over the proposed development, which was exposed by a report from the anti-settlement watchdog group Peace Now.

“This step does not contribute to settlement. On the contrary, there is damage here for settlement,” Mr Netanyahu said.

“This is a meaningless step - legally and in practice - and an action that creates an unnecessary confrontation with the international community at a time when we are making an effort to persuade elements in the international community to reach a better deal with Iran.”

The statement said Mr Ariel had accepted the request, the BBC reported.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had warned that the peace talks with Israel would be effectively over if Israel proceeded with the construction.

Recent tense talks in Geneva on Tehran's controversial programme ended without a deal.