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UN groupings criticise Israeli settlement activities

image captionThe settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this

All the regional and political groupings on the UN Security Council have criticised Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, in a highly unusual move.

The envoys said continued settlement building threatened chances of a future Palestinian state.

They also expressed dismay at violence by settlers and right-wing activists.

However, the US - a staunch Israeli ally with veto powers in the Security Council - did not join the criticism.

Israel has so far made no public comment.

The Israeli defence ministry last week issued tenders for more than 1,000 housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

No joint statement

The envoys who criticised Israel represented the European Union, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Arab Group and a loose coalition of emerging states known as IBSA.

They were were reacting to a briefing by Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, the UN assistant secretary general for political affairs.

Mr Fernandez-Taranco said that the search for peace Israel and the Palestinians "remained elusive in a context of tensions on the ground, deep mistrust between the parties and volatile regional dynamics".

Reading a statement by the EU group, UK permanent representative Mark Lyall Grant said: "Israel's continuing announcements to accelerate the construction of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, send a devastating message."

"We believe that Israel's security and the realisation of the Palestinians' right to statehood are not opposing goals. On the contrary they are mutually reinforcing objectives. But they will not be achieved while settlement building and settler violence continues."

Russia - another veto-wielding member in the 15-member Security Council - also criticised the Israeli policies.

Despite the unanimity of views, the envoys did not try to draft a single Security Council statement because they knew the US would veto it, the BBC's Barbara Plett at the UN headquarters in New York reports.

Washington argues that anything to do with Israeli-Palestinian peace talks belong in a US-led bilateral process, not at the UN.

About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel's 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.