European powers on Friday condemned Israel's decision to approve thousands more settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, calling it a "counterproductive" move that undermines regional peace efforts.
"The expansion of settlements violates international law and further imperils the viability of a two-state solution to bring about a just and lasting peace to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," said a joint statement from the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Spain.
"As we have emphasised directly with the government of Israel, this step furthermore undermines efforts to rebuild trust between the parties with a view to resuming dialogue," they said, urging an immediate halt in settlement construction.
The ministers said pushing ahead with more settlements would be a "counterproductive move in light of the positive developments of normalisation agreements reached between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain".
The UAE and Bahrain had in mid-September set aside decades of enmity with Israel to sign a US-brokered deal to normalise ties.
Western powers had hoped the deals would bring regional stability and give a boost to hopes for peace.
But the Palestinians have branded the shift by the Gulf nations as "betrayal".
Berlin, Germany | AFP