03:06 GMT +3 hours29 November 2014
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Russia urges Israel to halt settlement construction

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The Russian Foreign Ministry urged Israel on Wednesday to refrain from more housing construction in the occupied West Bank pending a final agreement on the status of the Palestinian territories.

The Russian Foreign Ministry urged Israel on Wednesday to refrain from more housing construction in the occupied West Bank pending a final agreement on the status of the Palestinian territories.

"Moscow is seriously concerned by the announcement from the Israeli leadership," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its web site. "The Russian position is well known and has been affirmed more than once: any construction in the occuped territories is illegal under the accepted norms of international law and must cease," it says.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Tuesday for stepped up construction of 2,000 new homes for Israelis in the occupied territory, saying the new construction would remain on Israeli territory whatever the terms of the possible recognition of Palestine’s statehood bid.

Israel will also temporarily halt the transfer of finances to the Palestinian government, Netanyahu’s adviser Alex Selsky said, speaking a day after the Palestinian National Authority received full membership in UNESCO, a move Israel condemned. Selsky said the Cabinet would make a decision on additional measures at its next meeting.

In early October Israel announced plans to build some 300 new homes for Jewish settlers in occupied East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim as the capital of their future state. In late September, Israel had approved construction of 1,100 homes in East Jerusalem.