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BRUSSELS - The European Union (EU) on Monday deplored the recent Israeli decision to advance settlement expansion in the East Jerusalem settlement of Gilo.

In a conclusion on Middle East Peace Process, adopted ?in Luxembourg by the EU's Foreign Ministers, the the 27-member block said the Israeli settlement project ran "counter" to the efforts of the Quartet -- the United Nations, the United States, the EU and Russia.

"Not surprisingly, the announcement - or re-announcement - of the 1,100 settlement dwellings in Gilo was mentioned by some, and deplored," EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton addressed press following the meeting.

Ashton also called upon both Israel and Palestine to avoid steps that might hamper the Quartet's efforts to restart negotiations between the two sides.

"We support calls ... to refrain from provocative actions and avoid steps that will go against our efforts to restart negotiations," she said.

"I will be speaking to President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu this evening, and the Quartet envoys will be in touch with the parties as well to invite them to meet in the coming days, " Ashton said

According to the conclusions, the EU would continue to follow closely developments regarding to the Palestinian initiative at the United Nations.

Ashton on Sunday hosted a meeting of the Middle East Quartet envoys in Brussels. The diplomats discussed how to continue to engage with the Israeli and Palestinian partners to resume substantive negotiations as soon as possible.

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