Russia is concerned over the Israeli plan to expand its illegal settlements in the West Bank, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday.
Building a dividing wall in Jerusalem will mean the annexation of the Palestinian territories, Zakharova said at a news conference in Moscow.
“We would like to express particular concern about the decision of the Israel’s government to approve a large-scale plan to expand Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
“We noticed that a number of new settlement projects include the construction of additional sections and the separation barrier in East Jerusalem. In essence, this means annexing the Palestinian territories in accordance with the so-called deal of the century promoted by the US administration,” Zakharova said.
She stressed that the Palestinian problem remains acute, and its resolution will help develop a unifying agenda “based on mutual respect for sovereign states and their non-interference in each other’s affairs”.
Russian opposition to Israeli settlement plans implies the country does not fully support US-brokered peace deals in the region, according to international relations experts. US and Russia have competing interests in the region, experts add.
On Oct. 17, Israel approved for this year the construction of 12,159 illegal settlement units in the occupied West Bank and issued three military orders to confiscate around 2,700 acres from the occupied Jordan Valley in the West Bank.
Israel has advanced plans for 4,948 new housing units in illegal settlements across the occupied West Bank.
These new approvals by Israeli officials – in two groups yesterday & today – bring total number of settlement houses advanced this year to 12,159.
Apartheid consolidated. pic.twitter.com/xCaCLPiZf8
— Ben White (@benabyad) October 15, 2020
The move came a month after the UAE and Bahrain agreed to establish full diplomatic, cultural, and commercial relations with Israel after signing controversial US-sponsored agreements at the White House.
Abu Dhabi and Manama alleged that their deals with Israel halted the Israeli annexation plan, which takes almost 30% of the occupied West Bank. However, on several occasions, Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, confirmed the plan is only postponed.
The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is regarded as occupied territory under international law, thus making all Jewish settlements there illegal.
In 1967 Israel occupied major parts of the Palestinian territories, including the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Western part of Golan Heights.
The UN Security Council adopted a number of resolutions, obliging Israel to free the occupied territories, but the latter neglected all of them and continues its expansionists politics.
UN again urges Israel to halt all settlement activities
The UN’s special coordinator for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict again called on Tel Aviv to halt all settlement activities in the occupied West Bank after Israel announced thousands of new settlement units.
Nickolay Mladenov said Israel advanced plans Wednesday and Thursday for almost 5,000 new units on Palestinian land, with the vast majority “deep inside” the territory. All settlement construction is illegal under international law and the UN maintains it is a significant barrier to the establishment of peace.
“This significant number and location of advancements is of great concern to all those who remain committed to advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace,” he said in a statement. “Such moves undermine the prospect of achieving a viable two-State solution by systematically eroding the possibility of establishing a contiguous and independent Palestinian State living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel.”
Israeli Peace Now, a rights group that advocates peace between Palestinians and Israelis, said in a statement that the Israeli government’s plans “make 2020 the highest year on record in terms of units in settlement plans promoted since Peace Now began recording in 2012.”
It noted approved settlement units in 2020 have reached 12,159, “with possibility for another HPC meeting for another round of approvals before year’s end.” The Higher Planning Council (HPC) operates the West Bank.
The statement added that despite the economic crisis resulting from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in Israel, “Netanyahu is promoting construction in isolated settlements that Israel will have to evacuate.” “The settlement enterprise is not in Israel’s national or security interest,” it concluded.
The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is regarded as occupied territory under international law, thus making all Jewish settlements there illegal. Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 1967.
Anadolu with additional input by GVS News Desk