Russia Slams US Backing For Israeli Settlements As "New Dangerous Escalation"

Reuters reports that Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday condemned the US move to reverse decades-long official policy which viewed Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank as illegal. 

“The Trump administration is reversing the Obama administration’s approach towards Israeli settlements. U.S. public statements on settlement activities in the West Bank have been inconsistent over decades,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday, effectively overturning the State Department's 41-year-old legal opinion that Israel's West Bank settlements are illegal.

Russia condemned the drastic policy reversal as a severe blow to the peace process, saying "We consider this Washington’s decision as another step aimed at ruining an international legal basis of the Middle East settlement that will exacerbate tensions in Palestinian-Israeli relations," according to the foreign ministry statement.

The West Bank Jewish settlement of Ofra, via Reuters.

"We are urging all concerned parties to refrain from any steps that could provoke a new dangerous escalation in the region and impede the creation of conditions for resuming direct Palestinian-Israeli talks," the statement emphasized.

Russia underscored it still sees as valid and binding the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 which states that "the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State [Palestine-Israel] solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace." 

Armed settlers from the hardline Jewish settlement of Yitzhar, via the AFP

Thus Moscow still views such settlements on Palestinian territory as illegal under international law, a Reuters summary of the Russian statement noted.

The historic policy shift of the Trump administration came after the State Department’s legal office was ordered to conduct a year-long review of the official US policy on the expanding settlements in the West Bank, according to The Jerusalem Post