EU countries at UN criticise Washington shift on settlements without pointing finger at US
"Our position on Israeli settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, is clear and remains unchanged," Britain, France, Germany, Belgium and Poland said in a joint statement.
"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.
"We call on Israel to end all settlement activity in line with its obligations as an occupying power," they added before a Security Council meeting on the Middle East.
Earlier on Wednesday, Hungary blocked efforts by the European Union to issue a joint statement condemning Washington’s move.
Hungary’s foreign minister Péter Szijjártó reportedly instructed his diplomats to block any statement, even if it avoided direct criticism of the US policy change.
On Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the Israeli settlements were "not, per se, inconsistent with international law," breaking with UN Security Council resolutions declaring the settlements to be illegal as they are built on occupied Palestinian land.
The policy shift was welcomed by Israel but it puts the US at odds with virtually the whole of the rest of the international community.
“With its new position on settlements, the Trump administration has now set the stage for backing Israel's unilateral annexation of large portions of the West Bank,” analyst Josh Ruebner wrote in The New Arab earlier this week.
“Such a move would attempt to permanently confine Palestinians to disconnected Bantustans under Israeli domination, which Israel and the United States would then recognise as a Palestinian ‘state’, thereby seeking to resolve all issues to Israel's advantage and to the detriment of Palestinian rights.”
However courts in Israel have declared most major settlements legal.
More than 600,000 Israelis live in settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, alongside more than three million Palestinians.