UAE warns Israel against West Bank annexation

Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs says Israel should back off threat to annex parts of occupied West Bank.

DUBAI - A senior United Arab Emirates official said on Monday that any unilateral move by Israel to annex parts of the occupied West Bank would be a serious setback for the Middle East peace process.

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.

"Continued Israeli talk of annexing Palestinian lands must stop," Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said in a Twitter post.

"Any unilateral Israeli move will be a serious setback for the peace process, undermine Palestinian self determination & constitute a rejection of the international & Arab consensus towards stability & peace."

US-allied Gulf Arab states including the UAE have recently appeared to be prioritizing close ties with the United States that are vital to countering Iran over traditional unswerving support for the Palestinians.

The Palestinians have rejected the plan, which diverges from previous U.S. policy and a 2002 Arab League-endorsed initiative that offered Israel normal relations in return for an independent Palestinian state and full Israeli withdrawal from territory captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said last month he was cutting off all ties with Israel and the US, including security coordination, over Israel's plans to annex the Jordan Valley and Jewish settlements in line with Trump's plan.

The UAE last month criticised Israel's annexation plans.

“This unilateral step is illegal, undermines chances for peace and contradicts all efforts made by the international community to reach a lasting political solution in accordance with relevant international resolutions,” said Emirati foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Unilaterally applying sovereignty over any part of the West Bank would be illegal, undermine the chances for peace, “and contradict all efforts made by the international community to reach a lasting political solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he added.

The UN's Middle East envoy Nikolay Mladenov warned last month that going ahead with the annexation plan would violate international law and deal “a devastating blow” to the two-state solution.