UN chief hopes Israel will hear ‘voice of reason’ and abort annexation plans
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UN chief hopes Israel will hear ‘voice of reason’ and abort annexation plans

Antonio Guterres says the move 'would be not only against international law, but it would be a major factor to destabilise the region'

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed hope that Israel will heed global calls not to go ahead with annexation of parts of the West Bank, which would undermine a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mr Guterres said the UN has been consistently conveying the message that “annexation would be not only against international law, but it would be a major factor to destabilise the region”.

He spoke ahead of a high-level UN Security Council meeting on the Middle East, where Israel’s plans to annex around 30% of the West Bank in line with US president Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan is certain to be a major topic.

Mr Guterres will speak before briefings from Arab League secretary general Ahmed Aboul Gheit and UN special coordinator for the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov.

Officials in France, which holds the council presidency this month, said half a dozen foreign ministers are expected to take part, along with the Palestinian foreign minister and Israel’s UN ambassador.

Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war and has built dozens of settlements that are now home to nearly 500,000 Israelis, but it never formally claimed it as an Israeli territory due to stiff international opposition.

The Palestinians, with wide international backing, seek the territory as the heartland of their future independent state. Most of the international community considers Israel’s West Bank settlements to be illegal under international law.

The Trump administration has taken a much softer line towards Israeli settlements than its predecessors.

With Mr Trump’s re-election prospects uncertain this November, Israeli hard-liners have urged their prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to move ahead with annexation quickly.

The Israeli leader’s new coalition deal includes an official clause allowing him to present his annexation plan to the government starting on July 1.

Such a unilateral move would all but dash Palestinian hopes of establishing a viable independent state and is vehemently opposed by the Palestinians, Arab nations and most of the rest of the world.

Mr Guterres said annexation “would undermine what I believe is necessary, which is a two-state solution in which Israelis and the Palestinians can live together in peace, respect each other, and guarantee each other’s security.

“I hope that this voice of reason that is not only mine, it is echoing across the world, will be heard by the Israeli authorities and that annexation does not take place on July 1.”

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