UK’s Johnson stresses support for US peace plan in call with Netanyahu

British PM reiterates his backing for a two-state solution, after previously saying the outline ‘could prove a positive step forwards’

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, welcomes Israel's then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside Downing Street in London, September 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, welcomes Israel's then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside Downing Street in London, September 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday emphasized his support for the new US peace plan and for a two-state solution in a call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Reuters reported on the call, citing a statement by Johnson’s spokesperson.

Following the plan’s release on January 28, Johnson spoke to US President Donald Trump, saying the proposal “could prove a positive step forwards.”

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the plan was “clearly a serious proposal, reflecting extensive time and effort.”

Trump’s plan envisions the Jewish state annexing key parts of the West Bank, including in the strategic Jordan Valley and all the settlements. The outline would see the eventual creation of a Palestinian state, with restricted sovereignty, over some 70 percent of the West Bank, without most of East Jerusalem, falling far short of minimal Palestinian demands.

The Palestinians have firmly rejected the plan, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas calling it the “slap of the century.”

US President Donald Trump meets with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the United Nations General Assembly, September 24, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The plan has been widely criticized by European countries.

The European Union on Tuesday rejected the proposal and expressed concern about Israel’s plans to annex large swaths of the West Bank that Palestinians seek for their future state. The bloc failed to pass a joint statement condemning the plan after several countries vetoed the measure, however.

In a separate statement, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell underlined the bloc’s commitment to a two-state solution based along the pre-1967 lines, with the possibility of mutually agreed-upon land swaps, made up of the State of Israel and “an independent, democratic, contiguous, sovereign and viable state of Palestine.”

Borrell said the US initiative “departs from these internationally agreed parameters.”

An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman lashed Borrell’s comments as “threatening language” that could sideline the EU as an influential actor in the region.

The UK formally left the European Union on Friday.

Hungary on Wednesday came out in support of the proposal, saying it was “suitable for creating peace” between Israel and the Palestinians.

UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn said after the proposal’s release that it “is not a peace plan. It is a plan to lock in illegal Israeli colonization and deny Palestinian rights. It is a threat to peace.”

Breaking with past US administrations, the Trump plan envisions the creation of a Palestinian state in part of the West Bank, a handful of neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and some areas of southern Israel — on condition that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state and Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza disarm.

The plan also calls for granting Israel ongoing overall security control west of the Jordan River, and barring Palestinians from entering Israel as refugees.

The Palestinians seek all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem — areas captured by Israel in the 1967 war — for an independent state and the removal of more than 700,000 Israelis from these areas.

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