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UN chief asks Israelis to cancel annexation plan

By HONG XIAO at the United Nations | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-06-26 00:06
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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. [Photo/Agencies]

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on Israel to scrap plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, a move that could occur as early as next week.

"We are at a watershed moment," said Guterres, adding that he has "a deep sense of concern over the evolving situation in Israel and Palestine".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made annexation a major pledge while campaigning ahead of the latest round of national elections held in March, according to the website UN News.

The proposal would see sovereignty extended to roughly 30 percent of the West Bank, covering most of the Jordan Valley and hundreds of disputed Israeli settlements.

In response, Palestinian leaders cut ties with Israel and the United States, which backed the plan.

During an online Security Council meeting Wednesday regarding the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian issue, the UN envoy for the Middle East, Nikolay Mladenov, warned the council that three decades of international peace efforts could be at stake, UN News wrote.

"Recognizing that both peoples have a right to live in their ancestral home, 27 years ago Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed to embark on a noble but difficult road, to resolve the conflict through negotiations, without taking unilateral action, and in order to reach a final status agreement on a just peace", he said in his briefing from Jerusalem.

"Today we are further than ever from this goal," he added.

Guterres told the meeting that Israel's threat of annexation alarmed the Palestinians, many Israelis and the broader international community.

If implemented, he said annexation would constitute a most serious violation of international law, grievously harm the prospect of a two-state solution and undercut the possibilities of a renewal of negotiations.

"I call on the Israeli government to abandon its annexation plans," he said.

According to Mladenov, the Palestinian Authority has stopped accepting taxes Israel collects on its behalf. The resulting 80 percent drop in monthly revenue has added to economic fragility caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Guterres emphasized that the increased economic fragility is increasing the hardship of the Palestinian people

Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the UN, read a statement at the meeting on behalf of Wang Yi, China's foreign minister and a state councilor.

"The Middle East is again at a crossroad between peace and turbulence. Shouldering the primary responsibility for the maintaining of international peace and security, the Security Council should and must play its role," Zhang said.

Zhang reiterated China's position, stressing that international consensus must not be contravened. "The two-state solution is a bottom line of international justice," he said.

"China supports the establishment of an independent state of Palestine that enjoys full sovereignty on the basis of 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israel's right to survival and legitimate security concerns should be fully respected," he said.

Zhang underlined that peace talks must not be abandoned.

"Palestine and Israel are and will remain each other's neighbor. Seeking one's own absolute security with unilateral actions will only aggravate tensions and undermine mutual trust," he said, calling for Palestine and Israel to resume dialogue on an equal footing as soon as possible, in order to rebuild trust, de-escalate disputes and work out a way to live in peace as neighbors.

Zhang said the question of occupied territory in the West Bank should be resolved as early as possible based on relevant UN resolutions and a final Palestine-Israel border delineated through peace talks.

He called on the global community, especially countries with influence on Palestine and Israel, to stick to an impartial and just position, to actively promote peace talks and push forward the Middle East peace process with sincere efforts.

As COVID-19 has worsened Palestine's economic and humanitarian situation, Zhang called on the international community to support Palestine in growing its economy, facilitate the work of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and help improve the humanitarian situation.

"China is a sincere friend of the Palestinian people. We have all along followed the Mideast process with concern and have remained a force for international justice and fairness and for all efforts at de-escalation," he said.

To help the Palestinian people fight COVID-19, China has provided medical supplies and has recently sent a team of Chinese experts to share their expertise.

China values the role of the UNRWA. Zhang said that this year China will donate $1 million to the agency and provide supplies to UNRWA-affiliated medical institutions.

"China will continue to support and help Palestine to the best of its ability," he said.

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