Arab foreign ministers condemned a plan by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to annex the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea if reelected as "aggression," undermining any chances of a peace treaty with the Palestinians.
Speaking to the press a week before Israeli general election, Netanyahu also said that the Trump administration's peace plan, which he said would be released days after the election, would provide a "historic opportunity" for annexing the West Bank and other areas.
The Jordan Valley stretches from the Dead Sea in the south to the Israeli city of Beit Shean in the north, bordering Jordan in the east. The 2,400-square-kilometer (926.65-square-mile) valley accounts for nearly 30 percent of the territory in the West Bank. Israel has long said it intends to maintain military control there under any peace agreement with the Palestinians.
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The Arab League "considers his announcement a dangerous development and a new Israeli aggression by declaring the intention to violate the international law," Arab foreign ministers said in a statement after a meeting in Cairo.
"The league regards these statements as undermining the chances of any progress in the peace process and will torpedo all its foundations," the statement said.
Arab foreign ministers had been holding a meeting in Cairo, seat of the Arab League, but added an emergency session after Netanyahu made his comments on live television.
Around 65,000 Palestinians and 11,000 Israeli settlers live in the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea area, according to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem. The main Palestinian city is Jericho, with around 28 villages and smaller Bedouin communities.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi on Twitter called Netanyahu's plan a "serious escalation". Jordan and Egypt are the only Arab states to have peace treaties with Israel.
Hanan Ashrawi, a senior official in the Palestine Liberation Organization, wrote on Twitter that the Israeli leader was out to impose a "greater Israel on all of historical Palestine and (carry) out an ethnic cleansing agenda".
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner said in early May that he hoped Israel would take a hard look at President Donald Trump's upcoming Middle East peace proposal before "proceeding with any plan" to annex West Bank settlements.
Saudi Arabia condemned Netanyahu's comments and called for an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, state news agency SPA said.
Qatar reiterated its support for a two-state peace solution.
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