U.S. stresses 'concern' with Israeli settlements after intensive talks

The United Nations headquarters in New York

Washington chose not to use its veto to bloc the document, prompting a furious response from Israel, which summoned the U.S. ambassador and launched a series of diplomatic measures against countries backing the bill.

A senior Israeli official on Thursday denied reports that President Donald Trump's administration has called on Israel to restrict construction in Judea and Samaria.

The change in USA administrations, and the shift in positions on Israeli settlements flavored the discussion Friday.

The Trump administration first articulated the nuances of its stance on settlements in early February, stating, "While we don't believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal".

The wording may be politically useful to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is under unrelenting pressure from his right-wing coalition to forge ahead expanding settlements.

Mladenov called "the January spike" in illegal settlement announcements by Israel "deeply concerning".

According to the formula, the United States administration will recognize the thousands of construction units already declared by Netanyahu and will allow the Israeli Prime Minister to keep his promise to the evacuees of Amona for the establishment of a new settlement.

He said that even though the resolution called on Israel to take steps to cease all settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, "no such steps have been taken during the reporting period".

Trump's Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, who recently returned from a visit to the region, led the US delegation in what were described as "intensive discussions" with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's chief of staff Yoav Horowitz and foreign policy adviser Jonathan Schachter.

In those talks in Jerusalem, Greenblatt reportedly demanded that Israel halt all construction in isolated West Bank settlements and put curbs on new building inside the major settlement blocs, but Netanyahu was said to have rejected the idea. The Israeli delegation was led by Yoav Horowitz, Netanyahu's chief of staff, and Israel's ambassador to the US Ron Dermer.

The talks come after Greenblatt's visit to the region last week, which featured two long meetings with Netanyahu and a meeting with Palestinian leaders.

"I'm looking at two-state and one-state" formulations, Trump said alongside Netanyahu. "I can live with either one", the president said.

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