BRUSSELS — The European Union urged Israel on Thursday to extend its moratorium on settlement building, a key demand made by Palestinians to keep renewed peace talks afloat, a text obtained by AFP showed.
In a declaration adopted by foreign ministers, the EU "recalls that settlements are illegal under international law and calls for an extension of the moratorium decided by Israel."
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has warned that he would walk out of talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if Israel decided to let the partial moratorium expire as scheduled on September 26.
The EU declaration also urged an end to rocket and "terrorist" attacks against Israel. Palestinian militants have launched rockets against Israel from the Gaza Strip, which is run by the Islamist movement Hamas.
The 27-nation bloc "continues to call for a complete stop to all violence, in particular rocket fire and terrorist attacks," the declaration says.
It is "indispensable that both parties observe calm and restraint and refrain from actions that could affect negatively the process of negotiations," the text says.
Israel and the Palestinians relaunched US-brokered direct peace talks on September 2 after a 20-month hiatus, but they remain deeply divided on the issue of settlement construction.
Some 500,000 Israelis live in more than 120 Jewish settlements across the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories expected to form the bulk of a future Palestinian state.
The conflict over settlements has been one of the core disputes in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks going back to the early 1990s.
Netanyahu has thus far refused to extend the partial ban despite US President Barack Obama urging him to do so, though he has hinted he would confine building to major settlement blocs.
The European Union forms along with the United States, Russia and the United Nations the diplomatic Quartet seeking a solution to the Middle East conflict.
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