Russia has accused the United States of promoting Israel's normalisation of relations with Arab nations and circumventing the Arab Peace Initiative launched by Saudi Arabia in 2002, which calls for a settlement to the Israel-Palestine conflict before any diplomatic recognition of Israel.
Wednesday's statement by Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia at the UN Security Council's monthly meeting on the Mideast also implicitly criticised Saudi Arabia — without naming it — for moving toward establishing diplomatic relations with Israel while taking "aggressive illegal actions" including an "unprecedented" expansion of settlements on territory that is supposed to be part of an independent Palestine.
Nebenzia said US efforts to normalise Arab-Israeli relations at a time that the "de facto" international legal framework for an Israel-Palestine peace settlement is being dismantled not only circumvents the "logic" of the Arab Peace Initiative, but it stymies "any prospects for reviving direct negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis" to achieve peace and a long-sought two-state solution to their decades-old conflict.
The council meeting took place a day after Saudi Arabia's newly appointed envoy to the Palestinian Authority, Nayef al-Sudairi, made a first trip to the Israeli-occupied West Bank since the 1967 Mideast war.
At the same time, Israel's Tourism Minister Haim Katz led an Israeli delegation to the Saudi capital Riyadh to take part in a conference hosted by the UN World Tourism Organization.
Both visits were clearly linked to the recent American efforts to normalise ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Al-Sudairi's visit was widely seen as an attempt by the kingdom to address the key sticking point in the Saudi-Israeli normalisation deal: Saudi Arabia's stance toward Palestinians.
'Unprecedented' settlement expansion
Nebenzia pointed to violent attacks including by illegal Israeli settlers, arbitrary arrests, "unprecedented" settlement expansion and Israel's forced expulsion of Palestinian families, confiscation of their property, legalisation of settlement outposts and violations of the "status quo" of the holy sites in Jerusalem.
Tor Wennesland, the UN Mideast envoy, reported that in the three months between mid-June and mid-September, 68 Palestinians, including 18 children, were killed and 2,830 were wounded by Israeli forces, while 10 Israelis, including two children, were killed and 122 injured.
Wennesland was reporting on implementation of a December 2016 Security Council resolution that also called on all countries to distinguish in their dealings with Israel between its territory and the territory it has occupied since the June 1967 war.
He cited US State Department guidance on June 26 that scientific and technological cooperation with Israel in such areas "is inconsistent with US foreign policy."