The Trump administration in 2019 effectively backed Israel's right to build West Bank settlements by abandoning a long-held U.S. position that they were "inconsistent with international law".

Speaking at a news conference during a trip to Buenos Aires, Blinken said the United States was disappointed in Israel's announcement of plans for building new housing in the occupied West Bank, saying they were counterproductive to reaching an enduring peace.

"They're also inconsistent with international law. Our administration maintains a firm opposition to settlement expansion, and in our judgment this only weakens, doesn't strengthen Israel's security," Blinken said.

In November 2019, Trump's then secretary of state Mike Pompeo announced that Washington no longer viewed Israel's settlements on West Bank land it captured in the 1967 Middle East war as "inconsistent with international law", a reversal of four decades of U.S. policy.

Palestinians and the international community view the transfer of any country's civilians to occupied land as illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and U.N. Security Council resolutions. Many countries condemned the announcement.

(Reporting by Simon Lewis, Humeyra Pamuk and Ismail Shakil, Editing by Franklin Paul and Chizu Nomiyama)

By Simon Lewis and Humeyra Pamuk