Mayor Issues Response on Jerusalem Construction

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat issued a response to statements by the U.S. State Department following the weekend launch of proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, mediated by Obama administration Middle East envoy George Mitchell.

"Both parties are taking some steps to help create an atmosphere that is conducive to successful talks, including [PA] President [Mahmoud] Abbas' statement that he will work against incitement of any sort and [Israeli] Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu's statement that there will be no construction at the Ramat Shlomo project for two years," the State Department said in a statement released on Sunday.

Barkat responded by saying "the real test is the test of actions."

"The Municipality of Jerusalem continues to promote planning and construction throughout the city for all its residents - Jews, Christians and Muslims.

"We expect that the Israeli government will react to public demand of both the Arab and Jewish sectors and enable the construction of housing for the young population that is leaving the city because of a shortage of affordable housing.

"We trust that the prime minister will not allow a [construction] freeze in Jerusalem - not in words and not in actions," the mayor's statement concluded.

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