EU condemns Trump Middle East peace plan amid annexation concerns

The National  /  February 5, 2020

Josep Borrell hinted the EU may take legal action against Israel.

A draft United Nations Security Council resolution on Tuesday condemned an Israeli plan to annex its settlements in the West Bank in a condemnation of US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal.

The draft text, circulated to council members by Tunisia and Indonesia, would seemingly face a US veto, but nonetheless offered some members’ negative view of the plan that Mr Trump rolled out last week in Washington alongside Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Negotiations on the text will likely begin later this week. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to speak to the council next week about the plan, possibly coinciding with a vote on the draft resolution.

The resolution “stresses the illegality of the annexation of any part” of occupied Palestinian territories and “condemns recent statements calling for annexation by Israel” of these territories, according to the draft seen by Reuters.

Earlier on Tuesday, a senior EU official rejected Mr Trump’s plan for securing peace in the Middle East and expressed concern about Israel’s plans to annex more Palestinian territory.

Mr Trump’s proposals would foresee the eventual creation of a Palestinian state but it falls far short of minimal Palestinian demands and would leave sizable parts of the occupied West Bank in Israeli hands.

Under the plan, Israeli security would have near total control of a proposed demilitarised Palestinian state.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Tuesday underlined the bloc’s commitment to a two-state solution, based on 1967 lines with the possibility of mutually agreed land-swaps, including “an independent, democratic, contiguous, sovereign and viable state of Palestine”.

Mr Borrell said the US initiative “departs from these internationally agreed parameters”.

“To build a just and lasting peace, the unresolved final status issues must be decided through direct negotiations between both parties,” he said.

“This includes notably the issues related to borders, the status of Jerusalem, security and the refugee question.”

Mr Trump’s plan was welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has dismissed it as “nonsense”.

While Israeli officials were present for its unveiling, no Palestinian representative attended.

On Monday, 57 Muslim states rejected the plan after a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation in Jeddah.

“The OIC rejects this US-Israeli plan as it does not meet the minimum aspirations and legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, and contradicts the terms of reference of the peace process,” the organisation said.

It called on “all member states not to deal with this plan or co-operate with the US administration efforts to enforce it in any way or form”.

The Palestinians seek all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which were captured by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, and the removal of more than 700,000 Israeli settlers from these areas.

But the US plan sides heavily with Mr Netanyahu’s hard-line nationalist vision for the region and disregards many of the Palestinians’ core demands.

The Israeli leader has also said he wants to move forward with plans to annex West Bank territory on which Jewish settlements were illegally built.

“We are especially concerned by statements on the prospect of annexation of the Jordan Valley and other parts of the West Bank,” Mr Borrell said.

He hinted that the EU might consider legal action by saying that any “steps towards annexation, if implemented, could not pass unchallenged”.

In Israel, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat said it was “regrettable” that Mr Borrell was using “threatening language” towards the country so soon after taking up his post, and so shortly after meeting leaders in Iran.

“Pursuing such policies and conduct is the best way to ensure that the EU’s role in any process will be minimised,” Mr Haiat said on Twitter.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Borrell held talks with President Hassan Rouhani, but they failed to make progress, with the Iranian leader threatening to block nuclear inspections.

EU foreign ministers have discussed in recent months whether the bloc should modify its Middle East policy.

There has been growing concern that settlement activity and US moves, such as recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, are undermining the chances of a two-state solution.

Ireland and Luxembourg are among a small group of countries that support a change of position but no major member country is backing them.

Mr Borrell said that member countries are “very much divided” over how to handle Middle East peace moves.

On Tuesday he also stressed the EU’s “fundamental commitment to the security of Israel”.