Israeli steps toward annexation of the Jordan Valley and parts of the West Bank, should they be implemented, "could not pass unchallenged," The European Union's foreign policy chief said in a statement on Tuesday.
"In line with international law and relevant UN Security Council resolutions, the EU does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied since 1967," said Josep Borrell in response to promises by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to push for applying Israeli sovereignty over settlements in the West Bank before the country's third election in less than a year, on March 2.
"Steps towards annexation, if implemented, could not pass unchallenged," the statement said.
Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lior Haiat said Tuesday that the EU "pursuing such policies and conduct is the best way to ensure that the EU's role in any process will be minimized."
"The fact that the High Rep of the EU, Josep Borrell, chose to use threatening language towards Israel, so shortly after he assumed office & only hours after his meetings in Iran, is regrettable &, to say the least, odd," said Haiat in a statement on Twitter.
The EU urged both Israel and the Palestinians "to refrain from any unilateral actions contrary to international law that could exacerbate tensions. We are especially concerned by statements on the prospect of annexation of the Jordan Valley and other parts of the West Bank."
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Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled his administration's long-awaited Middle East peace proposal, which would allow Israel to annex all its West Bank settlements — which the Palestinians and most of the international community view as illegal — as well as the Jordan Valley, which accounts for roughly a quarter of the West Bank.
In return, the Palestinians would be granted statehood in Gaza, scattered chunks of the West Bank and some neighborhoods on the outskirts of Jerusalem, all linked together by a new network of roads, bridges and tunnels. Israel would control the state’s borders and airspace and maintain overall security authority. Critics of the plan say this would rob Palestinian statehood of any meaning.
The plan would abolish the right of return for Palestinian refugees displaced by the 1948 war and their descendants, a key Palestinian demand. The entire agreement would be contingent on Gaza’s Hamas rulers and other armed groups disarming, something they have always adamantly rejected.
International responses to the Trump plan came in two phases. The first was immediate and formulated in advance, ranging from support, to support in principal, to flat statements saying the deal will be “looked into.”
The second phase, however, was in direct response to Israeli intent to annex West Bank territories, and mainly included harsh opposition and warnings.