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Australia PM slams UN resolution as he welcomes Netanyahu

CANBERRA: Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull attacked the United Nations for “one-sided resolutions” against Israel’s push to build settlements on occupied land as he welcomed Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday on his first official visit to the country.

Ahead of the four-day visit, Turnbull wrote a newspaper editorial slamming the United Nations Security Council for a resolution adopted in December that called for an end to Israeli settlement building on occupied Palestinian territory.

“My government will not support one-sided resolutions criticizing Israel of the kind recently adopted by the U.N Security Council and we deplore the boycott campaigns designed to de-legitimise the Jewish state,” Turnbull wrote in The Australian newspaper.

Netanyahu welcomed the strong show of support, telling reporters he “was delighted” by the article.

“Australia has been courageously willing to puncture U.N. hypocrisy more than once,” Netanyahu said at a joint-press conference with Turnbull.

“The U.N. is capable of many absurdities and I think it’s important that you have straightforward and clear-eyed countries like Australia that often bring it back to earth,” he said.

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Turnbull said he supported direct negotiations towards a two-state solution, but warned that Israel’s security needs would have to be met for any peace agreement to take hold.

“You cannot expect any Israeli government to put itself in a position where security is at risk, where its citizens are not safe. The first duty of every government is the safety of the people,” he said.

A group of 60 business leaders, academics, members of the clergy and former politicians signed a letter released Monday saying that Australia should not welcome Netanyahu, claiming his policies “provoke, intimidate and oppress” the Palestinians.

“Israel continues to defy all United Nations calls for it to comply with international law in respect of its illegal settlement building, and its treatment of the indigenous Palestinian population,” the letter reads.

A pro-Palestinian demonstration is planned in Sydney on Thursday.

The UN resolution was passed during the final weeks of former US president Barack Obama’s administration, which declined to exercise its veto in a rare show of frustration with its longtime ally Israel.

Obama strongly opposed the expansion of Jewish settlements, arguing they hurt the search for a two-state solution.

Members of Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition have seen the election of Donald Trump as the beginning of a new era in which they would be able to freely advance settlement construction.

Since Trump’s January 20 inauguration, the Israeli premier has announced more than 5,000 settlement homes and the construction of the first entirely new settlement in more than 20 years.

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