The United States is "concerned" about a government panel's Monday decision to recognize three West Bank outposts as legal settlements, and is seeking clarifications from Israel, the State Department said Tuesday.

"We are obviously concerned by the reports that we have seen. We have raised this with the Israeli government," US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters. "We don't think this is helpful to the [peace] process, and we don't accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity."

The comments from Washington came after the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday condemned Israel’s decision to recognize the outposts as legal settlements.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was “troubled” by the approval of Bruchin, Rehalim and Sansana.

Such activity is illegal under Israeli law and runs counter to the country’s obligation under the Road Map, he said, adding that it also went against repeated calls from the Quartet to refrain from provocation.

It is disappointing that such a decision comes at a time of renewed efforts to restart dialogue, he said.

Israel has argued that the decision does not impact its obligations to the international community, because it gave the approval to turn the three outposts into settlements over a decade ago, but the decision was never executed.

The PA urged Israel to “immediately halt unilateral actions” in the West Bank.

Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, accused Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of “pushing matters once again toward a deadlock.”

Abu Rudaineh said the decision was an indication of what the government’s upcoming response would be to the letter Abbas sent Netanyahu last week.

The letter that chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat and Majed Faraj, head of the Palestinian General Intelligence Service in the West Bank, delivered to Netanyahu outlined the PA’s stance toward the peace process and reiterated conditions for the resumption of negotiations with Israel.

The PA is waiting for Netanyahu’s official response to the letter, Abu Rudaineh said.

Referring to the decision to legalize the outposts, the spokesman stated: “Our options will remain open if this is the Israeli response to the letter.”

Erekat met Tuesday in Jericho with US Middle East envoy David Hale and reiterated the Palestinian demand for a cessation of settlement construction in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Erekat said the PA was not setting any conditions for the resumption of the peace talks.

“Halting settlement construction, accepting the principle of the two-state solution and the release of prisoners and detainees are not Palestinian conditions, but obligations that Israel must fulfill,” he told the US envoy.

Erekat said he did not understand how one could talk about a two-state solution while the Israeli government was building and expanding and legalizing settlements.

He said that all the settlements built on Palestinian territories, including east Jerusalem, were “illegal,” and added that the Israeli government should choose between settlements and peace.

“The two don’t go together,” he said. “If the Israeli government continues with its settlement policy, it will destroy the two-state solution and the entire peace process.”

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger