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Arab League slams Israel's West Bank annexation plan as 'a new war crime'

League urges Washington to withdraw support for Israel's plans to annex 'any part of the Palestinian territories'
UN Security Council condemns Israeli settlements as 'flagrant violation under international law' (Reuters/File photo)

The Arab League has condemned Israel's plans to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank, saying the move would constitute a "new war crime" against the Palestinians.

In a statement released after a virtual meeting of Arab foreign ministers, the League called on the US to respect the United Nations' charter and international law by withdrawing support for the Israeli plan. 

"The Israeli government's plans to annex any part of the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967... would represent a new war crime in Israel's record that is full of oppressive crimes against the Palestinian people and glaring violations of the United Nations' resolutions and international law," the Arab League said on Thursday.

The body, which consists of 22 Arabic-speaking Middle Eastern and North African countries, also urged the European Union to recognise a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and pressure Israel to reverse its annexation plans.

'This step, if completed, would end the two-state solution,'

- Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki

In January, US President Donald Trump unveiled his so-called "deal of the century" addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which would see Israel take about a third of the West Bank in exchange for recognising a disjointed Palestinian state with no control over its borders or airspace.

An Israeli coalition government agreement reached between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival Benny Gantz last week includes a framework for implementing the annexations outlined in the plan.

Earlier this week, the Trump administration signalled that it would support Israel's plans in blatant violation of international law, which prohibits the acquisition of land by force.

During the Arab League meeting, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said any annexation would "end the two-state solution".

"This step, if taken, would eliminate the possibility of embodying an independent, sovereign, geographically connected and viable Palestinian state. This step, if completed, would end the two-state solution."

Taking advantage of the pandemic 

Last week, both the European Union and the UN warned Israel against going through with its annexation plans. 

In a video briefing with the Security Council, UN envoy to the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov said that "the dangerous prospect of annexation by Israel... threatens efforts to advance regional peace."

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Josep Borrell, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said the bloc of 27 member countries "does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the occupied West Bank" and that it will "closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and will act accordingly".

Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights in the 1967 war against its Arab neighbours.

Late in 2016, the UN Security Council condemned Israel's West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements as a "flagrant violation under international law".

On Thursday, the Arab League also accused Israel of taking advantage of the spread of the coronavirus, which has captured the world's attention, to press through with its annexation plans.

It called on Israel to release Palestinian prisoners, especially children, seniors and women, to protect them from the disease.