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EU urges Israel not to annex settlements in the West Bank

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In this Feb. 20, 2020 file photo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the area where a new neighborhood is to be built in the East Jerusalem settlement of Har Hom
In this Feb. 20, 2020 file photo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the area where a new neighborhood is to be built in the East Jerusalem settlement of Har Hom   -   Copyright  DEBBIE HILL/UPI
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Israel’s plan to annex swathes of the West Bank would constitute a serious violation of international law and have significant consequences for the country’s relationship with Europe, EU Foreign Affairs chief Josep Borrell said on Thursday.

In a short statement to the European Parliament, Borrell said that any annexation of Israeli-occupied territory in the West Bank would negatively affect regional stability and damage the prospect of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Borrell did not reveal what action the EU would take in the event of annexation - citing time constraints - but said it would have “significant consequences for the relationship we currently enjoy with Israel.” He urged the Israeli authorities ‘to avoid such a step before it is too late”.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to annex Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley, which Israel has occupied since 1967 in violation of international law. Israeli settlements in the West Bank are currently home to as many as 500,000 Israeli settlers.

The annexation would scupper negotiations for a so-called two-state solution in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, which would see an independent Palestinian state exist alongside Israeli and has been the goal of most of the international community for decades.

As well as the EU, the UK has come out against annexation, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson telling the House of Commons on Tuesday that the plan would “amount to a breach of international law”. “We believe profoundly in a two-state solution,” Johnson said.

But Netanyahu and his supporters have been bolstered by support from President Donald Trump, whose much-maligned Middle East plan greatly favours Israel over the Palestinians and whose administration has given the go-ahead for the annexation of Jewish settlements.

Jordan and Egypt, the only two Arab nations that have formal relationships with Israel, have both spoken out against annexation, with Jordan’s King Abdullah warning that it would seriously undermine regional stability. His warning on stability was echoed by Borrell on Thursday.

On June 10, Germany's foreign minister, Heiko Maas, warned Israel that annexation would violate international law, but did not say how Germany or Europe would respond.