EU Backs Off Harsh Settlement Comments

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JERUSALEM, Israel - The European Commission made an unusual retraction Thursday of comments severely criticizing Israeli policy regarding settlements in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). 

A press release issued last week by the Commission said Israel's building and expanding of Jewish settlements was strangling the Palestinian economy and adding to the Palestinian Authority's dependence on foreign aid.

But European Union Spokesman David Kriss said Thursday, "The press release unfortunately uses wording that does not reflect statements by the EU Commission."

Israel's Foreign Ministry had summoned the EU ambassador in protest of the critical report, saying that Israeli security concerns were ignored.

Despite the retraction EU officials continue to take a hard line toward Israel's settlement policy.

Robert Rydberg of the Swedish Foreign Ministry told a conference in Munich that there is no way the international community could recognize natural growth of Jewish communities in the West Bank because all settlements beyond the Green Line (Israel's 1967 borders) are illegal. 

Sweden currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

Source:  Haaretz

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