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Peres urges EU to delay moves to stop settlement funds

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Israeli President Shimon Peres urged the EU on Thursday to delay stopping funding of projects involving settlements in the occupied territories as Palestinians and Israelis inch toward fresh peace talks.

"The coming days are critical," his office quoted him as saying. "Wait with your decision, give priority to peace."

The European Union is to publish new guidelines for its 28 member states on Friday that will block all funding of, or dealings with, Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, including annexed east Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday called US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is in neighbouring Jordan on his latest bid to revive direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and warned that the EU was "damaging efforts to restart the talks".

Peres said there were signs of progress in Kerry's shuttle diplomacy.

"From the latest information at my disposal, Secretary of State John Kerry has succeeded in advancing the chances of renewing peace talks," the statement quoted him as saying. "We are within touching distance.

"I appeal to our friends in Europe... do not lead a process of irresponsible sanctions which will torpedo diplomatic negotiations," he said.

"The issues are complex and sensitive," he said. "Your decision could lead to another crisis in our region."

The EU's office in Israel said that Kerry, Peres and Netanyahu all called European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso late on Wednesday to discuss the guidelines.

It said that the EU stood ready to negotiate with Israel regarding their planned entry into force from January 1 next year.

"Following a request from Israeli authorities, the EU stands ready to engage in consultations on their implementation," it said.

President Barroso explained "the context and the objective" of the guidelines, it said. "He reiterated that they do not represent a shift in the EU position."

Netanyahu convened an emergency ministerial meeting on Tuesday after the EU approved the guidelines.

"We shall not accept any external dictates on our borders," Netanyahu's office quoted him as telling his justice and trade ministers and deputy foreign minister.

"That is an issue that will be decided only in direct negotiations between the sides."

The effects of the new guidelines could include the loss of hundreds of millions of euros (dollars) for Israel, local media said.

The left-leaning Haaretz newspaper said the "moment of truth" was approaching for Israel's peace talks policy.

"Israel's government needs to decide if it is ready to continue to endanger the country's future for the sake of continuing the occupation," it warned.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130718/peres-urges-eu-delay-moves-stop-settlement-funds