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German FM voices 'serious concerns' over Israeli annexation plan

By AFP - Jun 10,2020 - Last updated at Jun 10,2020

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Germany and its European partners have "serious concerns" over Israel's plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in Jerusalem Wednesday.

The first high-level European visitor to Israel since the coronavirus pandemic hit, Maas brought a message of disquiet from Berlin and elsewhere in the EU.

Speaking in Jerusalem, he expressed "our honest and serious concerns... about the possible consequences of such a step".

Israel intends to annex West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley, as proposed by US President Donald Trump, with initial steps slated to begin from July 1, the same day Germany takes the rotating EU presidency.

“Together with the European Union, we believe that annexation would not be compatible with international law,” Maas told a joint press conference with his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi, calling instead for the resumption of talks towards a two-state solution.

The bloc is yet to agree on how to react if Israel presses ahead with annexation, including whether to impose sanctions on Israel.

Maas said that “I don’t think much of the politics of issuing threats at a stage when no decision has been taken yet” by Israel.

Ashkenazi said Trump’s peace initiative “is an important milestone for the region and it represents a significant opportunity”.

“The plan will be pursued responsibly, in full coordination with the United States” while maintaining Israel’s existing and future “peace agreements... and strategic interests”, he said.

Israeli annexation forms part of the US peace plan Trump unveiled in January, which paves the way for the eventual creation of a Palestinian state.

The proposals exclude core Palestinian demands such as a capital in East Jerusalem and have been rejected by the Palestinian Authority.

Palestinians have sent a counterproposal for the creation of a “sovereign Palestinian state, independent and demilitarised” to the Quartet, made up of the UN, US, EU and Russia, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said on Tuesday.

“We want Israel to feel international pressure,” Shtayyeh said.

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