(MENAFN- Palestine News Network) Bethlehem/PNN/
A network of pro-Palestinian European groups has called on the European Union to slap sanctions on Israel over its controversial proposal to annex much of the occupied West Bank, saying the move is part of the regime's ongoing ethnic cleansing, apartheid and colonization policies.
The European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP), in a letter addressed to the EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, on Saturday, said 'immediate actions, including sanctions, need to be taken' to confront Israel's unilateral land grab and annexation plans.
The Brussels-based group then urged the EU to take 'concrete measures,' arguing that the 27-member bloc has means at its disposal to punish Israel's violations.
The ECCP called for the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, and the exclusion of Israel from EU Framework Programs, funded by European taxpayers' money, as some of possible punitive measures.
'This is not the first time that Israel has tried to illegally annex parts of territories it occupies. Israel already annexed occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 and Syria's Golan Heights in 1981 in gross violation of the international law,' the letter read.
'While Gaza has been strangled by a 13-year blockade and repeated military invasions in the West Bank, Palestinians struggle with a brutal occupation, expulsion, dispossession, arbitrary arrests and house demolitions among other things,' it continued.
The ECCP also urged Borrell to stand by his February statement in which he warned Israel that 'steps towards annexation, if implemented, could not pass unchallenged.'
'Under international law, the EU as a whole and each of its member states have the mandatory obligation to ban trade with Israel's illegal settlements, as allowing such entities to trade freely and profit from the Occupation violates duties of non-recognition of and non-assistance to serious breaches of international law.The current situation cannot be allowed to continue if the EU is serious about its commitments to human rights and the rule of law,' the letter noted.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has already condemned the Israeli plan to annex the occupied West Bank, saying the move will shut the door on possible "peace negotiations" with the Palestinians.
Guterres made the remarks in a recent meeting with the Arab Group delegation, including Oman, the Arab League and Palestinian officials earlier this week, denouncing Israeli settlements and the looming annexation plan as illegal.
He noted that the annexation proposal will 'effectively end the [so-called] two-state solution and close the door on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.'
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