UNITED NATIONS : UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has deplored Wednesday’s  announcements of further Israeli to build Jewish settlements plans in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, pointing out that settlement activity is contrary to international law and constitutes an obstacle to peace.

“Any measures that prejudge final status issues will not be recognised by the international community,” a statement issued by the secretary-general’s spokesperson said.

Israel reportedly made the announcement hours after freeing 26 Palestinian prisoners.

Ban understands that Israel took “a difficult step” in continuing to release Palestinian prisoners in the face of deep domestic opposition, and appreciates this gesture, said the statement.

“The Secretary-General expects the parties to take every possible step to promote conditions conducive to the success of the negotiating process and to refrain from actions that undermine trust,” it added.

Direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians stalled in September 2010, after Israel refused to extend its freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory. The two sides resumed negotiations this August following efforts by United States Secretary of State John Kerry.