US denounces new Israeli settler homes plan

Plans to build 1,500 new Israeli settler homes in east Jerusalem do not create a "positive environment" for ongoing peace negotiations with the Palestinians, a senior US official said Wednesday.

Palestinians have reacted angrily to the plans announced just hours after Israel freed 26 Palestinian prisoners, accusing the Jewish state of trying to wreck the peace talks.

"We do not consider continued settlement activity or east Jerusalem construction to be steps that create a positive environment for the negotiations," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

"At no time in the course of pursuing negotiations toward a two-state solution have we condoned settlement activity or east Jerusalem construction."

The very purpose of the talks, which were relaunched in late July after dogged efforts by US Secretary of State John Kerry, was to resolve the issues such as settlements that have torpedoed past negotiations.

"The talks are continuing, and both sides remain committed to the nine-month time frame," Psaki added.

Both sides have now met at least 13 times in the past three months, and while Psaki stuck with the current refusal to divulge any details, she insisted there was "a difference than where we were a couple of years ago."