'No plan B' to two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, UN chief warns

Antonio Guterres's remarks come ahead of US unveiling economic part of peace plan

A picture taken on September 27, 2018, from the east Jerusalem Arab neighbourhood of Issawiya shows a view of the Palestinian Shuafat refugee camp and the controversial Israeli separation wall. Comments by US President Donald Trump supporting a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict for the first time have turned heads ahead of UN speeches by the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. / AFP / AHMAD GHARABLI
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UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres on Thursday warned against any moves to jettison a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, announcing a closer tie-up with the Arab League.

A liaison office for the two organisations will be opened in Cairo later this month, Mr Guterres told the Security Council during a session that hosted the Arab League secretary-general, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, in New York.

Mr Guterres's remarks about Israel and Palestine come ahead of the US-sponsored economic workshop in Bahrain from June 25 to 26, the first part of the White House's long-awaited plan for Middle East peace.

The event has been overshadowed by indications from American officials that Palestinian statehood will not be part of the proposals, a break from US precedent that is at odds with the United Nations.

“We maintain our collective commitment to the vision of two states, based on relevant UN resolutions, long-held principles, previous agreements and international law,” Mr Guterres said.

“There is no alternative to the two-state solution. There is no plan B.”

Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and the joint author of the unpublished White House proposals on Middle East peace, last month said the two-state solution would not be part of its plan.

That disclosure further alienated Palestinian officials – who have rejected the proposals in advance – on the grounds that the Trump administration is biased in favour of Israel and not interested in fulfilling their long-held demands for statehood and an end to Israeli occupation.

Mr Aboul Gheit, an Egyptian diplomat, said that Israel's current leadership was making “feverish attempts to expand territory” openly doubting any two-state solution, preferring to “occupy and later illegally annex” Palestinian land, including East Jerusalem, the desired capital of a future state.

“Our region will never know security without ending the occupation and establishing a separate [Palestinian] state,” Mr Aboul Gheit said, saying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was “the main force that destabilises and fuels radicalism”.

Thursday's session involving the Arab League was convened by Kuwait, holder of the council presidency in June.

Mr Aboul Gheit, mentioning ongoing wars in Syria and Yemen, said more cooperation was needed as such conflicts were becoming “excessively difficult to resolve”, partly because of differences in the council and its five permanent members' ability to veto planned action.

The acting US permanent representative to the UN, Jonathan Cohen, said he hoped the Cairo liaison office would help bolster the UN's peace efforts in Yemen. He also backed the Arab League's decision at its March summit in Tunis not to normalise relations with the Syrian regime of President Bashar Al Assad.