Israeli decision to legalize West Bank settlements ‘illegal’: Saudi foreign minister

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Israel’s decision to legalize nine settlements in the occupied West Bank is an “illegal” move that will further instigate tension, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said on Monday.

“This announcement by Israel of the annexation of these nine settlements, [is] a blatantly illegal act which will only serve to further increase [and] inflame tensions and complicate the situation,” the minister said.

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Prince Faisal was speaking during a joint news conference with European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul-Gheit in Brussels.

In addition to tackling Saudi ties with the EU, the meeting focused on the recent Israeli announcement and ways to revive the peace process in the Middle East in line with the Arab Peace Initiative.

The Arab Peace Initiative, which Saudi Arabia drew up in 2002, is a proposal to end the Arab–Israeli conflict. The Arab League endorsed the peace plan at the Beirut Summit that same year.

Over the weekend, Israel announced that it will legalize nine West Bank outposts and reported plans to move ahead with the construction of 10,000 settlement units.

The Israeli move follows tension between Israel and Palestine and comes after a number of attacks in east Jerusalem.

Prince Faisal said that the tripartite meeting comes at a “very important time given the dangerous developments that we are seeing in Palestine recently and especially this announcement by Israel.”

The foreign minister stressed that it was essential to continue focusing on finding a “pathway to peace,” adding that he thanked the EU for its efforts and commitments to the peace process and to Palestinians’ rights.

The Saudi foreign ministry also issued a statement Monday, reaffirming the Kingdom’s rejection of the settlements plan while underscoring the “importance of the Israeli authorities’ commitment to international resolutions and not taking any unilateral measures that would undermine the chances of reviving the peace process.”

The news conference also touched on the massive earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria and left over 35,000 people dead. The earthquake caused major devastation in both countries and prompted international support and aid to be sent to the quake-hit regions.

The Kingdom has sent several rescue teams to the earthquake-hit regions after Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) launched its aid program last week.

“This tragedy in Turkey and Syria is immense and it deserves an adequate response, and the Kingdom has responded through sending aid and relief teams to both Syria and Turkey,” Prince Faisal said.

“We discussed… in our bilateral meeting the fact that it is absolutely necessary that aid reaches all parts of Turkey, but of course also Syria and that we make sure that the humanitarian suffering and the huge humanitarian burden that is now on the Syrian people is lifted. Therefore, we are fully supporting as much as we can the delivery of aid to all parts of Syria.”

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