Germany voices ‘serious concern’ over Israeli annexation plan

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Germany’s foreign minister on Wednesday expressed serious concern to Israel about its plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, but he stopped short of threatening sanctions.

Minister Heiko Maas was speaking on a visit to Israel one month before Berlin assumes the European Union presidency, a role which gives it great influence in guiding EU policy.

Israel’s new unity government next month intends to begin discussing extending sovereignty to its settlements in occupied land that Palestinians claim for an envisaged independent state.

The plan has been criticized by Arab and European powers. Israel says annexation would be in keeping with a unilateral plan announced by US President Donald Trump in January.

“I repeated here today the German position as well as our serious concerns as a special friend of Israel of the possible consequences of such a step,” Maas told reporters alongside his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi.

Last September, Germany was one of five European nations to say that if the annexation plan was implemented, it would constitute a serious breach of international law. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in February that such a move would not go unchallenged.

Asked on Wednesday about possible sanctions against Israel by the EU, Maas said: “I did not set any price tags.”

Maas is the first senior foreign official to visit Israel since its new coalition government was sworn-in on May 17.
Ashkenazi said Israel would take Germany’s perspective into consideration.

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