Israel ignores UN demand for end to settlement building

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"The US delegation reiterated President Donald Trump's concerns regarding settlement activity in the context of moving towards a peace agreement", it said.

The two sides said they would continue to engage in dialogue over the continued expansion of settlements in East Jerusalem al-Quds and the West Bank.

A day after it was reported that the USA had asked Israel to freeze building in Yehudah and Shomron during envoy Jason Greenblatt's visit last week, a senior Israeli official was quoted by local media as denying the story.

The meetings were held at the highest level for four days in Washington and are the most recent step by Trump's advisors to open the way to diplomatic efforts to achieve peace between Israel and Palestine.

Israeli construction of illegal settlement homes in the occupied West Bank rose by 40 percent in 2016 compared with the previous year, official figures showed Wednesday.

Ironically, the discussions concluded on the same day as the Senate confirmed David Friedman, a pro-settlement hardliner, as the new USA ambassador to Israel.

The surprisingly restrictive terms were laid out by Jason Greenblatt, President Trump's special negotiator, in his Jerusalem meetings with Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu last week, the reports said. Friedman, who once served as Trump's bankruptcy lawyer, is also critical of the so-called two-state solution. Trump last month asked Netanyahu, during a press conference at an otherwise friendly White House summit, to stop settlement building for the time being. Merkel says the settlements are leading to an "erosion of the two-state solution".

"I'm looking at two states and one state".

Emboldened by the election of Trump, Israel has given the go-ahead to the construction of hundreds of new settlement units.