Europe unites at UN against West Bank annexation

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In this file photo Nickolay Mladenov, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority, speaks during an interview following the INSS conference, on January 30, 2018 in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv. (AFP)
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A Palestinian muezzin reads the Holy Qur’an in an almost empty mosque in Gaza City during the first Friday prayers of the holy month. (AFP)
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Updated 25 April 2020

Europe unites at UN against West Bank annexation

  • The UK is particularly concerned that demolitions have continued, including of temporary health centers, which weaken the capacity of Palestinians to respond to COVID-19

LONDON: The UK and the EU joined the UN in speaking out against Israeli annexation of the occupied West Bank on Thursday.
As part of a video briefing of the UN Security Council, UN Special Middle East Envoy Nickolay Mladenov warned against any such move, saying: “Annexation of parts of the West Bank would constitute a serious violation of international law, deal a devastating blow to the two-state solution, close the door to a renewal of negotiations, and threaten efforts to advance regional peace.”
The intervention comes after the striking of a coalition government agreement on Monday between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of Likud, and Benny Gantz, head of the Blue and White bloc, bringing to an end months of political stalemate featuring three elections in just 12 months.
Netanyahu, in a bid to win the support of pro-settlement voters, had placed annexation of the Jordan Valley and other parts of the West Bank squarely on the policy table as part of his manifesto for election.
The agreement with Gantz has now solidified that position, with July 1 slated as the date legislation proposing annexations will advance.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday said the White House welcomed the coalition agreement, adding that annexing parts of the West Bank is “ultimately Israel’s decision to make.”
Representatives from the UK, France, Germany and Brussels all set out their opposition to any such move.
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, wrote to UN Security Council ahead of the meeting, saying: “The European Union’s position on the status of the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 remains unchanged … The EU does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied West Bank.”
James Roscoe, acting UK deputy permanent representative to the UN, spoke about the dangers of the Israeli government continuing on the path toward further annexation, especially amid a global health crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“During this fragile period, we call on both parties to avoid any provocative action, which might undermine the cooperation that is so critical. This includes incitement, settlement activity, demolitions and settler violence,” Roscoe told the council.

We are deeply concerned by reports that the new Israeli government coalition has reached an agreement which paves the way for annexation of parts of the West Bank.

James Roscoe, Acting UK deputy permanent representative to UN

“The UK is particularly concerned that demolitions have continued, including of temporary health centers, which weaken the capacity of Palestinians to respond to COVID-19. Under international humanitarian law, an occupying power has the duty of ensuring and maintaining public health and hygiene in the occupied territory to the fullest extent of the means available to it,” he said.
“We are deeply concerned by reports that the new Israeli government coalition has reached an agreement which paves the way for annexation of parts of the West Bank,” he added.
“The UK position is clear: Any unilateral moves towards annexation of parts of the West Bank by Israel would be damaging to efforts to restart peace negotiations and would be contrary to international law.”
France’s Ambassador to the UN Nicolas de Rivière warned the UN that annexation “would not pass unchallenged and shall not be overlooked in our relationship with Israel.”
No fewer than 220 senior members of Israel’s security services signed a full-page advert published in various Israeli newspapers in April, warning the country’s MPs of the dangers of unilateral annexation of parts of the West Bank.
They said such a move would throw Israel’s peace treaties with neighbors Egypt and Jordan into jeopardy.
On Wednesday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said: “No one should delude themselves that they can take advantage of the fact that the world is busy with the coronavirus crisis to violate our rights. We will not allow anyone to violate our rights.”


‘Banque du Liban governor holds millions in UK assets’

A view of Lebanon's Central Bank building in Beirut, Lebanon April 23, 2020. (REUTERS)
Updated 3 min 8 sec ago

‘Banque du Liban governor holds millions in UK assets’

  • An international bailout to help the country will almost certainly come on condition of serious institutional reforms

LONDON: An anti-corruption watchdog has accused the governor of the Banque du Liban, Lebanon’s central bank, of holding hundreds of millions of dollars in offshore assets.
Riad Salameh and his family are accused by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, along with Lebanese investigative website Daraj, of owning over $100 million in companies worldwide, with the majority based in the UK.
Salameh, previously considered a respectable, stabilizing force on the Lebanese financial sector, has seen his reputation tarnished as the country faces economic turmoil.
He was responsible for the policy of pegging the Lebanese pound to the US dollar, a system that has collapsed in the aftermath of the government defaulting on international debt.
He has also been accused of grossly overestimating assets held by the Banque du Liban to the tune of $6 billion.
The latest revelations will have done little to improve Salameh’s image, despite there currently being no allegations of illegality over his family’s holdings.
The majority of the assets identified are UK properties, including an apartment in London’s wealthy Hyde Park area worth around £3.5 million ($4.58 million) owned by Salameh’s son Nady.
It was initially bought by a company that was then dissolved after ownership was transferred to him.
Salameh has dismissed suggestions of impropriety, saying his family’s wealth was accrued prior to his becoming governor of the Banque du Liban in 1993, and providing evidence that he had in excess of $23 million to his name at the time.

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$100m is reported to be owned by Riad Salameh and his family in companies worldwide, with the majority based in the UK.

It is the latest development in a litany of unflattering stories about Lebanon’s ruling elite, which has come under intense scrutiny following the devastating explosion at Beirut’s port on Aug. 4, caused by the combustion of thousands of tons of confiscated ammonium nitrate.
The explosion killed over 170 people, and has been widely blamed on the incompetence of government officials who, many claim, have been complicit in the widespread accruing of wealth despite poor management.
An international bailout to help the country will almost certainly come on condition of serious institutional reforms.
French President Emmanuel Macron last week called for “strong political initiatives to fight against corruption,” and a “transparent audit of the central bank and the banking system” if such assistance is to be forthcoming. “If reforms are not carried out, Lebanon will continue to sink,” he warned.