Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto expressed concern Feb. 27 over Israel’s decision to build a Jewish neighborhood in disputed east Jerusalem, Foreign Ministry officials said.

Hashimoto told visiting Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy that he regrets the move since it could have a negative impact on the peace process in the Middle East, the ministry officials said. Levy did not specifically respond to Hashimoto on the issue, the officials said.

Meanwhile, Hashimoto told Levy that Japan-Israeli bilateral relations are favorable, which will help Japan play an active role in promoting the peace process, the officials said. Hashimoto said Tokyo is ready to cooperate in giving economic assistance to the Palestinians to move the peace process forward, the officials said.

Levy explained the current situation of the peace process, saying that some hardships still lie ahead, despite recent progress already achieved by agreements in January on the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Hebron, the officials said.

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