Israel publishes tenders for 1,859 settler homes: NGO
JERUSALEM - Agence France-Presse
AP PhotoIsrael issued tenders Sunday to build 1,859 settler homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, ahead of a visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry, a monitor said.
Settlement watchdog Peace Now told AFP that 1,031 plots were offered by Israel's housing and construction ministry in the occupied West Bank and 828 in annexed east Jerusalem and that successful bidders would be able to start construction shortly.
"Within a few months they will choose the winning bids and the successful contractors will be able to start building within a number of weeks (after that)," the group's Hagit Ofran said.
Kerry sought Sunday to calm fears that Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were faltering, saying he remained hopeful there would be progress in the coming months.
"I remain hopeful, and we will make every effort in the United States to move the process forward in a fair-handed way, a balanced way that reflects the complexity of these issues," he said in Cairo, on the first stop of an 11-day tour which will also take him to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
He stressed that the United States remained committed to a goal of a final peace deal, but acknowledged recent tensions, particularly in light of Israel's stated intention to keeps building settler homes.
"There is no doubt... that the settlements have disturbed people's perceptions of whether or not people are serious and are moving in the right direction," he admitted.