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June 27, 2013

Israel Approves Settlements Before Kerry Visit

by VOA News

Israel has announced plans to build dozens of housing units in an East Jerusalem settlement, a day before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry makes another push to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

A spokeswoman for the Jerusalem municipality of Brachie Sprung said city officials on Wednesday approved 69 units in the settlement of Har Homa.  She also said building permits were issued for 22 new homes in Arab neighborhoods of the city.

Kerry, who is on a visit to the Middle East, is scheduled to meet on Thursday in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and on Friday in the Jordanian capital, Amman, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israeli settlement construction has been a main stumbling block in Middle East peace talks, which have been at an impasse in recent years.

In Kuwait Wednesday, Kerry said Israeli and Palestinian leaders are committed to reviving peace talks, but he acknowledged that progress on the long-stalled negotiations will be difficult.

Kerry also said Netanyahu and Abbas both want the peace process to move forward.  The secretary of state said he would not be in the region now if he did not think reviving peace talks is possible.

Kerry has been shuttling between the Israelis and Palestinians in an attempt to restart talks.