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Israel not complying with General Assembly demand to halt barrier - Annan

28 November Israel is not in compliance with a demand by the United Nations General Assembly to halt and take down a barrier on occupied Palestinian land, and the construction in present circumstances cannot be seen "as anything but a deeply counterproductive act," Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a report released today.

Mr. Annan cites the following evidence monitored by UN staff on the ground to support his conclusion: ongoing construction along the northeast boundary of the West Bank and Jerusalem; levelling of land; issuance of land requisition orders; release of the first official map showing the planned route and a declaration of intent to complete the barrier by 2005.

While recognizing Israel's "right and duty to protect its people against terrorist attacks" and noting that it began the barrier began after a sharp rise in Palestinian terror attacks in 2002, he adds: "That duty should not be carried out in a way that is in contradiction of international law, that could damage the longer term prospects for peace by making the creation of an independent, viable and contiguous Palestinian state more difficult, or that increases suffering among the Palestinian people."

Mr. Annan also notes Israel's repeated statements that the barrier is a temporary security measure and does not represent a "political or other border," but he says its scope and the amount of occupied land being requisitioned or that will end up within the barrier are of serious concern and have implications for the future.

Referring to the Road Map peace plan sponsored by the UN, European Union, Russia and United States, which aims at a two-state solution with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace by 2005, Mr. Annan writes: "In the midst of the Road Map process, when each party should be making good faith confidence-building, gestures, the barrier's construction in the West Bank cannot, in this regard, be seen as anything but a deeply counterproductive act.

"The placing of most of the structure on occupied Palestinian land could impair future negotiations," he adds, noting that in places the barrier deviates more than 7.5 kilometres, and its planned route by up to 22 kilometres, from the pre-1967 war 'green line' border to incorporate Israeli settlements while encircling Palestinian areas.

In such an eventuality, some 975 square kilometres, or 16.6 per cent of the entire West bank, including the homes of some 220,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem and 17,000 elsewhere, would lie between the barrier and the Green Line, while a further 160,000 would live in almost completely encircled enclaves. The planned route also places 320,000 Israelis between the barrier and the Green Line, including some 178,000 in occupied East Jerusalem, Mr. Annan adds.

The report was requested by General Assembly Resolution A/ES -10/13 of 23 October 2003.

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