In Jordan, German foreign minister agrees preventing annexation a ‘priority’

Heiko Maas, in joint statement with Jordanian counterpart and Palestinian Authority premier, says future negotiations must be based on international law

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (L) is received by his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi in the Jordanian capital Amman, on June 10, 2020. (Ahmad SHOURA / AFP)
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (L) is received by his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi in the Jordanian capital Amman, on June 10, 2020. (Ahmad SHOURA / AFP)

During a visit to Jordan on Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Berlin views it as a priority to prevent Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the West Bank.

In a joint statement issued together with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, Maas agreed that “an annexation would be contrary to international law and that it is now a matter of priority to prevent it.”

The ministers declared their continued support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and “reiterated that any future negotiations to reach the final status agreement must be based on International Law and the relevant UN resolutions.”

The statement came after Maas visited Israel on Wednesday, meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi to warn against annexation.

Israeli annexation forms part of the Trump administration peace plan unveiled in January, which also paves the way for the eventual creation of a Palestinian state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to swiftly, and unilaterally, extend Israeli sovereignty to some 30 percent of the West Bank in accordance with the plan. Though Netanyahu wants to move forward with the annexation by July 1, it has drawn a flurry of regional and international condemnations.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh speaks during a press conference at the Foreign Press Association in the West Bank city of Ramallah, June 9, 2020. (Abbas Momani/Pool Photo via AP)

During a one-day trip to the region, Maas met with his Jordanian counterpart in Amman while Palestinian Authority PM Shtayyeh participated via video. Israel blocked Maas from traveling to the West Bank, citing coronavirus restrictions, though it allows Palestinian laborers to cross in and out of Israel.

At a press conference in Amman, Maas said that “as a direct neighbor, Jordan is more directly affected than any other country by any developments” in the coming weeks pertaining to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

He also warned that “unilateral steps by either side will not bring us any closer” to a negotiated two-state solution, would impact regional stability and bear “great, great potential for escalation.”

Safadi warned it was “imperative… to stop annexation because ultimately it is a path to institutionalize apartheid of Palestine and that is not a recipe for peace.”

Speaking in Arabic, he added that annexation would “not be without a response from Jordan.”

Last month, Jordan’s King Abdullah II told German magazine Der Spiegel that Israeli annexation risked sparking a “conflict” with his country. Senior Jordanian officials have warned such a step could force the Hashemite kingdom to review its peace deal with Israel.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (R) holds a press conference with his German counterpart Heiko Maas at the ministry headquarters in Jerusalem on June 10, 2020. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)

Earlier Wednesday, in Israel, Maas held talks with Ashkenazi and then met with Netanyahu and separately with Gantz, who together forged a new unity government last month.

Maas restated his country’s opposition to unilateral Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank.

“I reiterated, and will continue to do that in my conversations today, the German position and explained our serious and honest worries, as a very special friend of Israel, about the possible consequences of such a move,” Maas said at press conference at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem at the beginning of the day.

Ashkenazi said Israel wants to implement the US administration’s peace plan. He indicated that annexation plans were not a done deal and that much work needed to be done before the government decided if and how to proceed with such a move.

A statement from Netanyahu’s office cited him telling his German guest that “any realistic plan would have to recognize the reality of Israeli settlements, and not feed the illusion of uprooting people from their homes.”

Gantz’s office said in a statement he told Maas the Trump plan was a “historic opportunity,” while stressing it should be advanced responsibly and in “dialogue” with various regional actors.

Trump’s proposals exclude core Palestinian demands such as a capital in East Jerusalem and have been rejected by the Palestinian Authority.

Palestinians have sent a counter-proposal envisaging a “sovereign Palestinian state, independent and demilitarized” to the Quartet, made up of the UN, US, EU and Russia, Shtayyeh said Wednesday.

The Palestinians have threatened to withdraw recognition of Israel and end PA civil services if Israel goes ahead with annexation.

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