France, UN envoys warn Israel against partial annexation of West Bank

The Jewish settlement of Ramat Givat Zeev in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, pictured on March 19, 2020.
The Jewish settlement of Ramat Givat Zeev in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, pictured on March 19, 2020. © Ammar Awad, REUTERS

France is working with other European nations to dissuade Israel from a partial annexation of the occupied West Bank, its foreign minister said Wednesday, as the UN’s Mideast envoy warned Israel against “closing the door” to negotiations.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said cabinet discussions will start in July over extending Israeli sovereignty to Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, as was mooted under US President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan.

A partial annexation of the West Bank would constitute a serious violation of international law, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said at a parliament hearing on Wednesday.

Le Drian said France was working with European partners to come up with a joint action plan for prevention and reprisal should Israel make such a move.

"For the past few days we have held several video conferences with European colleagues (...) with a view to deciding on a joint preventive action and eventually a reprisal if such a decision were taken," he said.

Also on Wednesday, the UN’s Middle East envoy warned that an Israeli move to annex parts of the West Bank would "close the door” to negotiations.

"The continuing threat of annexation by Israel of parts of the West Bank would constitute a most serious violation of international law, deal a devastating blow to the two-state solution, [and] close the door to a renewal of negotiations," Nickolay Mladenov told the UN Security Council.

"Israel must abandon its threat of annexation. And the Palestinian leadership [must] re-engage with all members of the quartet," he said, referring to the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

Mladenov urged the 15-member council to back a push by UN chief Antonio Guterres against unilateral steps that would hinder diplomatic efforts to renew negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Such a statement by the council is unlikely as it has to be agreed by consensus and the United States traditionally shields its ally Israel from any action.

"This council cannot dictate the end to this conflict. We can only encourage the parties to sit down together to determine how they wish to make progress," said the US ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Craft.

The Palestinians have rejected a peace plan by the Trump administration as heavily biased in Israel’s favour.

Mladenov urged the quartet to "come forward with a proposal that will enable the quartet to take up its mediation role".


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