Saudi Arabia rejects US position on Israeli settlements

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The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday it completely rejects the Trump administration’s statement that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are no longer considered illegal under international law.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the Kingdom’s “total rejection of the US statement that the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law,” in a post on Twitter.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a speech at the State Department on Monday that the Trump administration, after carefully studying all sides of the legal debate, concluded the “establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law.”

The announcement reverses a longstanding US State Department legal opinion upon which US policy was based, which concluded establishing settlements in the Palestinian territories went against international law.

The Arab League, of which Saudi Arabia is a member, condemned Pompeo’s statement as “a very negative development.” Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Tuesday the decision would result in “more violence and cruelty” against the Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli settlers and “undermines any possibility” of achieving peace.

The Trump administration’s revised position on settlements has been met with international criticism. The UN Human Rights office and European Union have reaffirmed their common position that Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory are in breach of international law.

Critics say the Israeli settlements impinge on the land of native Arab Palestinians, depriving them of their natural rights as inhabitants of the land, and restrict the mostly rural Palestinian population from undertaking farming and other activities related to the cultivation of their land.

The Palestinian Authority on Monday slammed the position as “completely against international law.” Washington is “not qualified or authorized to cancel the resolutions of international law, and has no right to grant legality to any Israeli settlement,” Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeinah said in a statement.

Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) representative for Jerusalem, Bernard Sabella, told Al Arabiya English that the decision “goes counter to international laws and understandings.”

“No state, including the United States, can turn its back to international law and its requirements,” said Sabella, adding that the position damages the credibility of the current US administration in pursuing a broker role in future peace negotiations.

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