UN Middle East peace envoy warns against unilateral action on all sides, as Israel threatens West Bank annexation

20 May 2020

The UN’s Middle East peace envoy issued a stern warning on Wednesday against any unilateral action – including an Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank – that could undermine diplomatic efforts to get Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council that all sides must do their part in the coming weeks and months to preserve the prospect of a two-State solution, in line with internationally agreed parameters, international law and UN resolutions.

“These efforts must begin immediately. There is no time to lose”, said Mr. Mladenov, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.

“The fate of the Palestinian and Israeli people must not be determined by destructive unilateral action that cements division and may put peace beyond reach in our lifetime.”

Ending ‘all agreements’

He addressed the Council – meeting via video-teleconference - just hours after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly announced that he is ending "all agreements" with Israel and the United States in response to Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

His remarks also came three days after a new coalition Government was sworn into office in Israel, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to news reports, determined to declare Israeli sovereignty over Jewish settlements in the occupied territory.

Such a move would dovetail with US President Donald Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” blueprint for the region, which he unveiled in January alongside Mr. Netanyahu - and which the Palestinians have rejected as a denial of their rights.

Annexation: ‘A most serious violation of international law’

Mr. Mladenov told the 15-member Council that annexation would represent “a most serious violation of international law” and deal a devastating blow to the two-State solution.

It would also slam the door on fresh negotiations and threaten efforts to advance regional and international peace, he said.

The Palestinian reaction to annexation is “a desperate cry for help (and) a call for immediate action” from a generation of Palestinian leaders who have been preparing for full Statehood since the Oslo Accords signed in Washington, in 1993.

“The Palestinian leadership is not threatening.  It is calling for urgent action to preserve the prospect of peace”, said the Special Coordinator, who plans to meet Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh on Thursday.

He added: “Whatever the future young Palestinians and Israelis decide to build, we have an obligation to prevent violence and protect the chance for peace.”

Council plea

He urged the Council to join Secretary-General António Guterres in his call against unilateral action, noting that recent opinion polls indicate that the Israeli public is split on the annexation question.

He also urged the Middle East Quartet – comprising the Russian Federation, United States, European Union and United Nations – to quickly come up with a proposal that would enable it to take up its mediation role, and work jointly with countries in the region to advance prospects for peace.

Everyone must do their part

“Israel must abandon threats of annexation”, he added, “and the Palestinian leadership must re-engage with all members of the Quartet.  Everybody must do their part.”

For the moment, the situation on the ground remains dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with Palestinian and Israeli authorities – despite growing political tensions – continuing to coordinate their efforts to limit the spread of the deadly virus while also carefully reopening economic life, Mr. Mladenov said.

However, while Palestinians are experiencing the same shock and uncertainty as the rest of the globe, their Government – the Palestinian Authority - cannot respond with the same agency as an independent and sovereign country, he noted.

 

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