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Israeli annexation could 'destroy hopes'

China Daily | Updated: 2020-04-25 17:59

A woman wears a face mask as she walks with her dog in Tel Aviv amid the COVID-19 restrictions around the country, in Israel, April 21, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

UNITED NATIONS-The UN Middle East envoy has warned that Israeli moves to annex parts of the West Bank and accelerate settlement expansion, combined with the coronavirus pandemic's devastating impact, could ignite the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and "destroy any hope of peace".

Nickolay Mladenov told the UN Security Council that annexation would also "constitute a serious violation of international law, deal a devastating blow to the two-state solution, close the door to a renewal of negotiations, and threaten efforts to advance regional peace".

He urged Israelis and Palestinians to support UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' call for a global cease-fire to all conflicts to tackle the pandemic.

Mladenov, who is the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, expressed hope that opportunities for cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians as a result of the COVID-19 crisis "will not be undermined or destroyed if the political context between Israel and the Palestinian Authority deteriorates".

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN ambassador, said cooperation is already being undermined, blaming the threat of annexation.

Earlier this past week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main political rival Benny Gantz signed an agreement for a governing coalition that includes a clause to advance plans to annex parts of the West Bank, including Israeli settlements, from July 1.

The Palestinians seek all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem-areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war-for an independent state and the removal of many of the more than 700,000 Israeli settlers from these areas.

The United States rolled out its long-awaited Middle East peace plan in late January calling for a disjointed Palestinian state that would turn over key parts of the West Bank to Israel. It was immediately dismissed by the Palestinians.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday when asked about the annexation agreement in the Netanyahu-Gantz deal: "That's an Israeli decision."

Zhang Jun, China's ambassador to the UN, said Beijing is concerned about the proposed plan by Israel to annex occupied Palestinian territory, in defiance of international law and Security Council resolutions.

"We urge relevant parties to refrain from taking any such unilateral steps," he told a virtual meeting of the council.

He asked the parties to heed Guterres' call for a global cease-fire and refrain from unilateral action that will aggravate tensions.

On Thursday, the European Union warned the incoming Israeli government that annexing parts of the occupied West Bank "would constitute a serious violation of international law".

Agencies - Xinhua

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