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UN 'regrets' new US position on legality of Israeli settlements

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has regretted the announcement made by the Trump administration that it no longer believes the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories are illegal.

Anab Mehdi

Anab MehdiBy Anab Mehdi

Published on 20 Nov 2019 8:05 AM GMT

UN regrets new US position on legality of Israeli settlements
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United Nations: United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has regretted the announcement made by the Trump administration that it no longer believes the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories are illegal.

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"I can say for our part our position remains unchanged," the UN chief's spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters here on Tuesday in response to questions on the announcement made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.

"We regret the decision and the announcement made by the United States," Dujarric said.

In a major policy shift, Pompeo on Moday announced that the US no longer believes the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories are illegal, asserting that the previous argument that such structures were inconsistent with international law has not helped the peace process at all.

Explaining the reasons behind the decision, Pompeo said the US recognises -- as have Israeli courts -- the legal conclusions that individual settlements must depend on an assessment of specific facts and circumstances on the ground.

Dujarric said as far as the UN is concerned, "we remain guided by relevant Security Council resolutions. We remain committed to supporting the Palestinians and Israelis to achieve lasting and durable peace based on those resolutions".

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He said the UN resolution 2334 states that Israeli settlement activities are flagrant violations under international law, a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just and lasting comprehensive peace.

"And that remains the Secretary-General's position," Dujarric said.

The UN Security Council resolution 2334 reaffirmed in 2016 that Israel's establishment of settlements on Palestinian land occupied since 1967, have "no legal validity", and constitute a "flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the vision of two states living side-by-side in peace and security, within internationally recognized borders".

The resolution was adopted with 14 votes in favour, with the US abstaining.

Dujarric said the UN remains "committed to a two-state solution based on the relevant UN resolutions".

Earlier on Tuesday, at a press briefing in Geneva, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) Rupert Colville told reporters that a change in the policy position of one member state does not modify the existing international law, nor its interpretation by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the UN Security Council.

Announcing the policy change, Pompeo said "calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law hasn't worked. It hasn't advanced the cause of peace".

As Pompeo made the policy announcement, the US Embassy in Jerusalem released a security alert, advising US citizens travelling to, or through, Jerusalem, to maintain a high level of vigilance and increase their security awareness.

In a statement released on Tuesday, independent UN rights expert Michael Lynk, officially Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, characterised the US move as a "decisive break with international consensus", which will "further entrench the perpetual Israeli occupation".

The US decision to "jettison international law" had legitimised the illegal Israeli settlements, driving "the very last nail in the coffin of the two-state solution" of two nations living side-by-side, which is the UN-backed outcome for a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine, he said.

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(PTI)

Anab Mehdi

Anab Mehdi

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