Acting US Ambassador to the UN Richard Mills has said that President Joe Biden's administration backs a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but will "maintain its steadfast support" for the Jewish state.
In a virtual speech to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, Mills said that Washington would urge Israel and the Palestinians "to avoid unilateral steps that make a two-state solution more difficult, such as annexation of territory, settlement activity, demolition, incitement to violence, and providing compensation for individuals imprisoned for acts of terrorism".
The US ambassador added that the White House hopes "it will be possible to start working to slowly build competence on both sides to create an environment in which we might once again be able to help advance a [two-state] solution".
At the same time, he made it clear that Washington doesn't see such steps "as a favour to the Palestinian leadership", adding that "US assistance benefits millions of ordinary Palestinians and helps to preserve a stable environment that benefits both Palestinians and Israelis".
Mills pledged that the Biden administration would continue urging other countries to normalise ties with Israel, while admitting that it was "not a substitute for Israeli-Palestinian peace".
He also signalled America's support for a "viable Palestinian state", stressing that the Biden administration plans to take steps to reopen the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington, previously closed by former US President Donald Trump.
"President Biden has been clear that he intends to restore US assistance programmes that support economic development programmes and humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people, and to take steps to reopen diplomatic relations that were closed by the last US administration", Mills pointed out.
The remarks came as White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday that Biden believes "a two-state solution remains the only path forward" for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
She was echoed by newly-confirmed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken who said last week that "the only way to ensure Israel's future as a Jewish, democratic state and to give the Palestinians a state to which they are entitled is through the so-called two-state solution".
He added, however, that "realistically it's hard to see near-term prospects for moving forward on that".
This stipulates creating a Palestinian state that will peacefully cooperate with the existing Jewish state, something that is expected to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and serve as a foundation for lasting peace in the Middle East.
For years, the Palestinians have been seeking diplomatic recognition for a state on the territories of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which is partially occupied by Israel, along with the Gaza Strip.
Under the Middle East peace plan unveiled by Trump in late January 2020, Israel would incorporate settlements in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley and keep Jerusalem as its "undivided capital".
The Palestinians are offered the adjacent village of Abu Dis as their capital and $50 billion in investments to "spur the Palestinian economy", a blueprint that was harshly criticised by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.