Russia calls U.S. backing for Israeli settlements blow to peace process

FILE PHOTO: Houses are seen in the landscape in this general view picture of the Israeli settlement of Havat Gilad in the occupied West Bank, June 17, 2019. Havat Gilad is a cluster of homes sprinkled across a hilltop that is surrounded by Palestinian villages deep in the West Bank. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday that a U.S. decision to effectively back Israel’s right to build Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank undermined the legal basis for a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday abandoned Washington’s four-decade-old position that such settlements were “inconsistent with international law.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry condemned the change of policy in a statement on Tuesday, warning the move would escalate tensions in the region.

Moscow’s stance is that such settlements on Palestinian territory are illegal under international law, it said.

(This story refiles to remove glitch in headline)

Reporting by Polina Devitt; Editing by Andrew Osborn