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UN Security Council to vote on Israeli settlements

THOMAS COEX / AFP | A picture taken on November 17, 2016 shows families in a street of the settlement outpost of Amona, which was established in 1997, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

New Zealand, Malaysia, Senegal and Venezuela will call for a UN Security Council vote on Friday afternoon on a draft resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlements, diplomats said.

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The announcement by the four countries – who co-sponsored the resolution with Egypt – follows a flurry of negotiations involving Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Barack Obama and US President-elect Donald Trump.

The resolution was initially due to be voted on Thursday afternoon, but Egypt abruptly put off the vote under pressure from US President-elect Trump.

Two Western officials revealed Thursday that President Obama had intended to abstain from the vote, a relatively rare step by the United States, which would more typically veto resolutions that criticise Israel’s policy of allowing settlements in occupied territories.

Leading up to the vote on Friday, a senior US official denied Israeli accusations that the Obama administration been involved in crafting or promoting the resolution. The official also said the United States had not communicated to any other council member how it intended to vote.

Netanyahu and Trump, meanwhile, had both called for the United States to veto the draft resolution.

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Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said the Republican president-elect had spoken with both Netanyahu and Egyptian President al-Sisi about the proposed Security Council action.

But Thursday night, the remaining four sponsors told Egypt on Thursday night that if Cairo did not clarify its position, then they reserved the right to "proceed to put it to vote ASAP".

‘Cease all settlement activities’

The draft resolution would demand Israel "immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem" and said the establishment of settlements by Israel has "no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law".

A resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes by the United States, France, Russia, Britain or China to be adopted.

The Palestinians want an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem – areas Israel captured in a 1967 war. Most countries and the United Nations view Israeli West Bank settlements as illegal and an obstacle to peace.

Israel disputes that settlements are illegal and says their final status should be determined in any future talks on Palestinian statehood. The last round of US-led peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians collapsed in 2014.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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