The South African government said Wednesday it is “appalled at the unjust and unwarranted decision” of the African Union Commission to grant Israel an observer status at the continental body.

“The African Union Commission has taken this decision unilaterally without consultations with its members,” South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) said in a statement.

The decision to grant Israel an observer status is even more shocking in a year in which the oppressed people of Palestine were hounded by destructive bombardments and continued illegal settlements of their land, it added.

“The African Union strenuously objected to the deaths of Palestinians and the destruction of civilian infrastructure. The decision by the AU Commission in this context is inexplicable,” DIRCO spokesman Clayson Monyela said.

Monyela said the South African government will ask the chairperson of the African Union Commission to brief all member states on this decision which, he hoped, will be discussed by the Executive Council and the Assembly of Heads of State and Government.

“South Africa firmly believes that as long as Israel is not willing to negotiate a peace plan without preconditions it should not have an observer status in the African Union,” the statement said.

It added: “The African Union cannot be a party in any way to plans and actions that would see the ideals of Palestinian statehood reduced into balkanized entities devoid of true sovereignty, without territorial contiguity and with no economic viability.”

The African Union is a representative body of 54 African nations whose majority object to Israel’s illegal occupation, unjust repression of Palestinians and annexation of their land.

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