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Israel warned at UN against annexation but US gives green light

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Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki (front), addresses a Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, at the UN headquarters in New York, Sept. 20, 2019. (Xinhua/Li Muzi)

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – The United Nations and European and Arab powers on Wednesday warned Israel that its plans to annex Palestinian land would deal a major blow to peace but the United States offered its green light.

A week before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to start the annexation process, a UN Security Council session provided a final opportunity for the international community to urge him to change course.

“I call on the Israeli government to abandon its annexation plans,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the virtual conference.

The UN coordinator for the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, said annexation “could irrevocably alter the nature of Israeli-Palestinian relations.”

“It risks upending more than a quarter of a century of international efforts in support of a future viable Palestinian state living in peace, security and mutual recognition with the State of Israel,” he said.

Seven European nations – Belgium, Britain, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland and Norway – in a joint statement warned that annexation would “severely undermine” prospects for resuming the Middle East peace process.

“Under international law, annexation would have consequences for our close relationship with Israel and would not be recognised by us,” they warned.

Arab League secretary general Ahmed Aboul Gheit said annexation “will destroy any prospect for peace in the future” and threaten regional stability.

But the administration of President Donald Trump, a close ally of Netanyahu, has declined to criticise annexation and has rejected the consensus of most of the world that Israeli settlements on Palestinian land are illegal.

“Decisions about Israelis extending sovereignty to those places are decisions for the Israelis to make,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters in Washington.

Trump in January unveiled a Middle East plan that would pave the way for Israel to annex areas around Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley that it captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.

The Palestinians, in turn, would have an independent state but one that is demilitarized with a capital on the outskirts of hostly contested Jerusalem.

The plan also calls for major economic investment into Palestinian areas, funded largely by Gulf Arab states that find common cause with Netanyahu and Trump in hostility toward Iran.

But US allies including the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, one of two Arab states to have a peace treaty with Israel, have warned that annexation would jeopardize the Jewish state’s hopes for better ties.

Pompeo brushed aside such concerns, saying the United states was “talking to all of the countries in the region” about the weeks ahead.

“I regret only that the Palestinian Authority has refused to participate in that,” Pompeo said.

At the United Nations, Palestinian representative Riyad al-Malki said annexation would be a “crime.”

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