In a letter issued Tuesday, the four European member states of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Britain, France, Germany and Portugal, condemned the recent Israeli announcement that the Israeli government had approved the construction of 1,000 new settlement units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In addition, South Africa, India and Brazil condemned the expansion.The four European countries reiterated the fact that Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territories are considered illegal under international law, and said the Israeli decision to expand the settlements was a “wholly negative development,’ and will hinder a return to the negotiating table.

In their letter, the representatives wrote, ‘The viability of the Palestinian state that we want to see and the two-state solution that is essential for Israel’s long-term security are threatened by the systematic and deliberate expansion of settlements,’ adding, “We condemn the disturbing escalation of violence by settlers, including the burning of mosques in the West Bank and Jerusalem….It is clear that these deliberately provocative attacks on places of worship were designed to aggravate tensions.”

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant read the statement in a press conference in which he called on Israel to halt settlement expansion and prosecute any settlers found to have engaged in criminal activity.

The South African Ambassador, Baso Sangqu, read a statement signed by the 120-nation bloc of non-aligned countries in the UN General Assembly saying that Israeli settlements are “the main impediment to the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

These sentiments were echoed in a statement submitted by Brazil, South Africa and India, all of which are currently members of the UNSC. In total, nine members of the Security Council condemned the Israeli settlement expansion and recent violence.

In response, a spokesperson for the Israeli mission at the United Nations stated that the main impediment to peace is not Israeli settlement expansion, but “the Palestinians’ claim to the so-called right of return and its refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.”