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Coveney condemns 'illegal' Israeli settlements in wake of US policy u-turn

This comes after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington no longer considers them to be illegal.

Image: Niall Carson via PA Images

TÁNAISTE SIMON COVENEY has said Ireland strongly supports the EU’s position of condemning Israel’s policy of building settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory. 

The EU issued a statement on the matter just hours after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington no longer considers them to be illegal.

“The European Union’s position on Israeli settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territory is clear and remains unchanged: all settlement activity is illegal under international law,” said  EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

The Israeli settlement policy “erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace,” she added.

“The EU calls on Israel to end all settlement activity, in line with its obligations as an occupying power.”

The international community overwhelmingly considers the settlements illegal, based in part on the Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids occupying powers from transferring parts of their own civilian population to an occupied territory.

In a tweet last night, Coveney said: “Ireland strongly continues to support the agreed EU position on Israeli settlement policy. Expansion of settlements in occupied territory is illegal under international law.” 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the country’s change in position earlier yesterday, saying the US would underturn a decades-long position that settlements in the occupied West Bank violate international law.

That statement puts the US at odds with the EU and virtually all countries and UN Security Council resolutions.

“After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate, this administration agrees… [that the] establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law,” Pompeo said.

“Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace,” he said in the draft.

“The hard truth is that there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict, and arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace.”

Until now, US policy was based on a legal opinion issued by the State Department in 1978, which said that establishing of settlements in the Palestinian territories went against international law.

Pompeo’s statement follows previous moves by the US administration that have weakened Palestinian efforts to achieve statehood, including Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US Embassy there.

And although the decision is largely symbolic, it could give a boost to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is fighting for his political survival after he was unable to form a coalition government following recent elections.

It could also spell further trouble for the administration’s oft-promised peace plan, which is unlikely to gather much international support by endorsing a position contrary to the global consensus.

Some 700,000 Israeli settlers live in occupied Palestinian territories which are claimed by the latter for their state.

Israel has never annexed the West Bank, even as it has dotted the territory with scores of settlements and tiny settlement outposts.

With reporting by Associated Press and - © AFP 2019

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