Guterres calls on Israel to ‘abandon’ annexation, urges Quartet-led talks

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at a “watershed moment,” Guterres said.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres‏ (photo credit: REUTERS)
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres‏
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel must “abandon” its annexation plans, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council on Wednesday as he called for the Quartet to take a lead role in restoring Israeli-Palestinian negations based on the pre-1967 lines.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at a “watershed moment,” Guterres said. Israeli plans to annex portions of the West Bank have alarmed the international community, the Palestinians and many Israelis, he added. 
Such annexation would be “a most serious violation of international law” that would grievously harm the prospect of a two-state solution and undercut the possibilities of a renewal of negotiations, he said.
“I call on the Israeli government to abandon its annexation plans,” Guterres said as he pledged his full commitment and that of the UN to help Israelis and Palestinians resolve the conflict.
“The goal is achieving the vision of two states – Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous, sovereign and viable Palestinian state – living side by side in peace and security within secure and recognized borders, based on the pre-1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states,” Guterres said.
“I call on fellow members of the Middle East Quartet to take up our mandated mediation role and find a mutually agreeable framework for the parties to re-engage, without preconditions, with us and other key states,” he said.
The Quartet is composed of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the UN. To date, the US has refused to agree to a Quartet-led process. US President Donald Trump is in the midst of advancing his own four-year peace process. The UN has rejected that process, in part because it is not based on the pre-1967 lines and in part because it allows for Israel to annex up to 30% of the West Bank in the initial stages of the plan.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov warned that annexation could be met with “anger, radicalization and violence,” and would send a dangerous message with regard to the futility of negotiations in the pursuit of peace.
“It will send one message and one message alone – bilateral negotiations cannot achieve a just peace. We cannot allow this to happen,” Mladenov said.
“Diplomacy must be given a chance,” Mladenov said.
He echoed Guterres is calling for the restoration of negotiations based on the pre-1967 lines.
Mladenov spoke of his concern over the Palestinian Authority’s decision to suspend its bilateral understandings with Israel, including halting once again its acceptance of the tax fees collected on its behalf by the state of Israel, a move that has caused it to lose 80% of its revenue.
“This gap cannot be filled by donors,” Mladenov said.
Palestinians in Gaza are particularly vulnerable, he said. Those in Gaza can no longer receive life-saving treatment in Israel, Mladenov added. 
“Already, an eight-month-old infant has lost his life due to this situation. Surely there must be a red line when it comes to the lives of children!," he stated.
"The UN and other international organizations are increasingly being asked to perform coordination responsibilities,” Mladenov said as he explained that the UN can not replace the PA on a long term basis. “Never before has the risk of escalation been accompanied by a political horizon so distant, an economic situation so fragile and a region so volatile."