European envoys counter US shift on Israeli settlements


European diplomats on Wednesday re-stated long-held positions that Israeli settlement-building on Palestinian land was “illegal”, following a dramatic policy shift on the issue by the Donald Trump administration earlier this week.

Addressing reporters outside the United Nations Security Council chamber, Britain’s ambassador Karen Pierce, also speaking for Belgium, France, Germany, and Poland, said the Euro-bloc’s policy on settlements “remains unchanged.”

“All settlement activity is illegal under international law and it erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace,” said Pierce, referencing the goal of achieving coexisting Palestinian and Israeli nations.

“We call on Israel to end all settlement activity in line with its obligations as an occupying power. We also reiterate our concern about the calls for a possible annexation of areas in the West Bank.”

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo softened Washington’s stance on Israeli settlements, saying Washington would no longer be considered “inconsistent with international law,” rolling back some four decades of U.S. policy.

The move was swiftly condemned by Palestinians, who seek to create a state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip — territorties captured by Israel in 1967. Israeli settlement building makes this goal unattainable, say Palestinian officials.

On Tuesday, United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the world body’s position on settlements “remains unchanged” and that the policy shift under the Trump administration was “regrettable.”

Also addressing reporters outside the council on Wednesday, Danny Danon, Israel’s UN envoy, shrugged off criticism from Europe and praised the Trump administration for making a policy shift that “rights a historical wrong.”

“The automatic support of some European countries for the Palestinians has resulted in a propaganda campaign that starts in New York and ends in Ramallah,” Danon said.

“If you want to truly help, you must change your approach because your criticism is preventing direct negotiations,” between Israeli and Palestinian peace brokers, he added.
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