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Trump set to make 'big announcement' on West Bank annexation

Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway said Trump had a big announcement [AFP/Getty]

Date of publication: 25 June, 2020

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When asked about Israel's annexation of the West Bank, President Trump's senior advisor Kellyanne Conway said she would leave it to the president to make 'a big announcement'.
US President Donald Trump is expecting to make a big announcement on his administration's peace plan for the Middle East, senior advisor to the President Kellyanne Conway told reporters on Wednesday.

When asked about Israel's annexation of the West Bank, Conway said she would leave it to President Trump to make "a big announcement".

"We are having conversations, there are conversations being had. Obviously, the president will have an announcement. He's talked about this in the past, and I’ll leave it to him to give you a big announcement, and we're very happy these talks continue," she said in comments quoted by The Jerusalem Post.

Conway made her comments as US ambassador to Israel David Friedman visited the US to discuss the proposed annexation with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, special representative for international negotiations Avi Berkowitz and Trump's special advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Conway, who doesn't normally comment on foreign policy, said "someone on the ground in Israel" told her such talks "couldn't even be had without the last three and a half years of President Donald Trump being the best friend to Israel, to quote Mr. Netanyahu, that Israel's ever had", the Israeli daily reported.

Conway spoke shortly after the United Nations and the Arab League joined in calls for Israel to abandon its plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. 

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit voiced worries that annexation could ignite "a religious war in and beyond our region".

Conway brushed aside these concerns on Wednesday. "The same thing was predicted, that there would be mayhem and murder and death and destruction... when [the president] pulled out of the Paris [Climate] Accords," she said.

"There is always this scare tactic, shock the conscience tactic, of all the bad that's going to happen. Thankfully, thank God, we still mention Him in our White House, and let's just say because the president wants to be… an agent for peace."

'Extending sovereignty'

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated on Wednesday that Israel had the US green light to annex Palestinian land, amid wide criticism of the plans.

"Decisions about Israelis extending sovereignty to those places are decisions for the Israelis to make," Pompeo told reporters.

"We are talking to all of the countries in the region about how it is we can manage this process for our end-state objective," he said.

Some Arab states, notably US ally Jordan, have voiced alarm at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's indication that he will move ahead as soon as next week with the annexation, saying that it would kill prospects for peace. 

Pompeo said that both Netanyahu and Gulf states backed a Middle East plan unveiled in January by President Donald Trump, which gives the blessing for Israel to annex huge parts of the West Bank and allows for a demilitarised Palestinian state without territorial continuity.

"I regret only that the Palestinian Authority has refused to participate in that," Pompeo said.

"I remain hopeful that in the coming weeks, we can begin to make real progress towards achieving that," he said of Trump's plan.

Abandon annexation 

The United Nations and the Arab League joined in calling on Wednesday for Israel to abandon its plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.

The calls were made during a UN Security Council video conference in which several government ministers participated.

"I call on the Israeli government to abandon its annexation plans," said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

He reiterated the longstanding goal of a two-state solution with an independent, contiguous, sovereign and viable Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states.

Arab League secretary general Ahmed Aboul Gheit said annexation "will destroy any prospect for peace in the future".

"The possible move by the Israeli government to annex parts of the occupied Palestinian territory would constitute, if implemented, a serious threat to regional stability," he added.

The UN coordinator for the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov said annexation "could irrevocably alter the nature of Israeli-Palestinian relations".

He added: "It risks up-ending more than a quarter of a century of international efforts in support of a future viable Palestinian state living in peace, security and mutual recognition with the State of Israel."

'Peace plan'

The US is Israel's closest ally and President Trump's administration has taken a much softer line toward Israeli settlements than its predecessors.

Trump's Middle East plan, unveiled in January, envisions leaving some 30 percent of the West Bank territory under permanent Israeli control while giving the Palestinians a patchwork of territories.

The Palestinians have rejected the plan, saying it is unfairly biased toward Israel.

Read more: Israeli annexation and a history of broken American promises

The Palestinians, with wide international backing, seek the West Bank as the heartland of their future independent state. Most of the international community considers Israel's West Bank settlements illegal under international law.

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