Kuwait joins US, EU condemnation of Israel

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KUWAIT CITY, Feb 14, (Agencies): Kuwait expresses its strong condemnation and denunciation of the Israeli occupation’s approval of a bill aimed at legalising settlement outposts and building new settlements in the occupied West Bank, the Foreign Ministry said on Monday. The move is a “violation of the principles of international law and undermines all international efforts aimed at reaching a just and comprehensive solution that resumes the Middle East peace process on the basis of a two-state solution,” read a ministry statement. The ministry reiterated Kuwait’s “principled and firm” stance against Israel’s ongoing “violations,” calling on the international community to take swift action to stop these actions and provide full protection for the Palestinian people and their property.

It also called on the international community to work to stop this unilateral decision in order to reach a final solution based on international legitimacy, the Arab Peace Initiative, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as a capital. The US on Monday criticized new Israeli plans to build thousands of new homes for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank, but gave no indication it would take any action against its close Middle Eastern ally.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced the plans late Sunday, saying they were in response to recent deadly Palestinian violence. It said Israel would legalize nine settlement outposts that were built without authorization and convene a special planning committee in the coming days to approve additional settlement construction. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a hardline settler whose responsibilities also include authority over settlement construction, said some 10,000 housing units were set to be approved. Netanyahu’s new government is dominated by Israeli ultranationalists who support settlement construction and oppose Palestinian independence. The United States opposes settlement construction on occupied territories claimed by the Palestinians.

Over 700,000 Jewish Israelis now live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem – territories captured in the 1967 Mideast war and sought by the Palestinians for their future state. In Washington, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. was “deeply troubled” by the Israeli decision. “We strongly oppose such unilateral measures, which exacerbate tensions and undermined the prospects for a negotiated two-state solution.” But Blinken gave no indication that the Biden administration is prepared to take action. Israel has shrugged off similar statements of concern in the past. The European Union Monday condemned and rejected the announcement by Israel on Sunday that they would consider nine illegal settler outposts in the occupied West Bank as legal under Israeli law. “The European Union rejects this decision and reiterates its position that settlements are illegal under international law and that it will not recognise any changes to the 1967 borders other than those agreed by the parties,” said lead EU spokesperson for foreign affairs and security policy, Peter Stano, in a statement tonight.

The EU renewed its call on Israel to halt settlement construction and to reverse these latest decisions as a matter of urgency. “The EU is gravely worried by the heightened tensions and increased violence,” said the statement. It went on to say that “in the current worrying context, it is important to consider steps to de-escalate the situation and avoid unilateral decisions and actions that would undermine the viability of a negotiated two-state solution to the conflict, and fuel more tensions.” Elsewhere, the chief of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) condemned on Tuesday a plan approved by the Israeli government to build thousands of new Jewish settlement homes across the occupied West Bank, including the holy city of Jerusalem. It is imperative for the international community to ramp up pressure on the Israeli government in a bid to halt such activities that “contravene international laws and principles,” the Riyadhbased bloc quoted Jasem Al-Bedaiwi as saying in a statement. Gulf Arab states will remain by the Palestinians’ side until their statehood aspirations, based on 1967 borderlines, come to fruition, added the statement. In related news, The European Union, the Arab League and Saudi Arabia Monday agreed to establish a tripartite group to promote Middle East peace efforts.

“We agreed to establish a trilateral working group to develop proposals for the comprehensive regional approach by identifying what contributions the participants, governments and international organizations could make to a comprehensive peace, if and when a Palestinian-Israel final peace agreement could be reached,” EU High Representative Josep Borrell told a press conference after a meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, and Ahmad Abul-Gheit, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, in Brussels today. “With this endeavor we want to demonstrate that we need peace in the Middle East,” said the EU foreign policy chief.

Borrell described today’s meeting as “very good and productive.” “We discussed in detail the Middle East Peace process or unfortunately the absence of the peace process. At the moment there is no such a thing and we have been discussing how we can work together to revive the peace efforts,” he said. Borrell noted that they met in this tripartite format last September during the UN General Assembly in New York. “We are very much worried about the developments in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories,” he stressed. Noting the continued violence in the region, expansion of Israeli settlements and demolition of Palestinian homes, he said, “the situation is constantly deteriorating.” “Only yesterday, the Israeli government announced the legalization of the law of nine settlement outputs,” he said adding, “I condemn this decision.” On his part, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud told the joint press conference “our initiative here is to try and revive the efforts towards peace initiative and toward achieving the goals of the Arab peace proposal that is critically important to give Palestinians hope.”

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