Ramallah: US Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that Washington considers Israeli settlements on the occupied Palestinian lands as "illegitimate".
"Let me emphasise that the position of the US is that we consider now and have always considered the settlements to be illegitimate," Kerry told reporters after meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, the West Bank.
Kerry added that Abbas showed he is ready to make concessions and accept compromises to reach a solution and peace, reported Xinhua.
Kerry is in the Middle East region to push forward the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which were resumed after almost three years of halt under his own mediation.
He will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later Wednesday and will visit Jordan Thursday.
Palestinian officials have said that the negotiations have made no progress, blaming Israel for its continued announcements of new housing units to be built in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of their future state.
When touring Bethlehem ahead of the meeting with Abbas, Kerry said Washington seeks peace between Israel and the Palestine based on the two-state solution, calling on both the sides to accelerate their negotiations.
Prior to his meeting with Abbas, dozens of Palestinians demonstrated outside the presidency's Bethlehem headquarters against Kerry's visit. The protestors raised banners in Arabic and English saying the settlements "kill the two-state solution".
In Gaza, the Islamic Hamas movement also criticised the visit, saying Kerry was unwelcome in the Palestinian territories.
"Kerry has to know that the current negotiations do not express the Palestinian people's will and that Mahmoud Abbas is unauthorised to hold any negotiations or to reach any results," Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement.
Upon arriving in Bethlehem, Kerry announced a $75 million grant for Palestinian infrastructure projects.