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EU warns Israel over forced transfer of Palestinian village

The European Union has called on Israel to "halt plans for the forced transfer of the population and demolition of Palestinian housing and infrastructure" in the village of Sussiya in the West Bank's South Hebron Hills.

The statement was issued in a communiqué on the peace process, after the monthly meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

Senior Israeli foreign ministry officials were quoted as saying that Israel viewed the use of terms such as "transfer" very seriously.

Israel's Haaretz newspaper said the ministry officials have decided not to issue an official response and instead to raise the issue directly with EU officials.

The EU' s warning comes a few days after a similar warning was issued by the US State Department. "We strongly urge the Israeli authorities to refrain from carrying out any demolitions in the village," State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington on Thursday.

"Demolition of this Palestinian village or of parts of it, and evictions of Palestinians from their homes would be harmful and provocative. Such actions have an impact beyond those individuals and families who are evicted" he added.

The paper said a first draft of the communiqué included softly worded criticism of Israel, but EU members including France, Sweden, Malta and Ireland demanded a harsher assessment of the stalled peace process, construction in the settlements and Israeli moves in Area C of the West Bank.

"The harshest criticism was against Israeli activity in Area C, under full Israeli control, and the plan to demolish Sussiya and evacuate its residents" Haaretz reported.

The document called on Israel "to enable accelerated Palestinian construction, as well as social and economic development in Area C. Such actions will serve to strengthen the prosperity and security of both Israelis and Palestinians."

The EU foreign ministers said that preserving the two-state solution as an option was a high priority, and that settlement construction "seriously threatens the two-state solution."

"The EU member states are committed to drawing up regulations for labeling settlement-produced goods that are sold in stores on the Continent," they added.

"The EU and its Member States reaffirm their commitment to ensure continued, full and effective implementation of existing EU legislation applicable to settlement products," the ministers said in the statement.

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