May 20, 2020 / 3:42 PM / 17 days ago

Israel must abandon annexation threat, says U.N. Middle East envoy

FILE PHOTO: Nickolay Mladenov, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General, briefs the U.N. Security Council during a council meeting on the situation in the Middle East at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Israel must abandon its threat to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, the U.N. Middle East envoy said on Wednesday, branding such a plan as a serious violation of international law that would “close the door to a renewal of negotiations.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said cabinet discussions would begin on July 1 on his plan to extend Israeli sovereignty to territory Palestinians want for their own state. There is no publicly stated deadline for annexation of land that Israel captured in 1967.

“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, close the door to a renewal of negotiations,” U.N. Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council.

“Israel must abandon its threat of annexation. And the Palestinian leadership to 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 U.N. 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,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft said.

The Palestinians have rejected a peace plan by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration.

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

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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