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26-Oct-2020 02:22:35
Instability feeds COVID-19, top official wars Security Council, stressing need to build on recent rapprochement efforts in Middle East.

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We Cannot Allow Israeli Unilateralism to Prevail, State of Palestine Stresses, as Israel Highlights Agreements with Arab States

Warning that COVID-19 “feeds off instability”, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process told the Security Council today that intensified international facilitation to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian negotiations must urgently build upon recent efforts at rapprochement in the region.

“The pandemic has heightened the urgency of exploring all avenues to make progress towards resolving the conflict,” Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov told Council members, delivering his monthly briefing by video teleconference. “I sincerely hope that new avenues of cooperation to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace will emerge.”

Citing the recent normalization agreements between Israel and three Arab States, he noted calls for an international peace conference, and said broad regional and international consensus continues to affirm the international commitment to a two-State solution, in accordance with United Nations resolutions and international law. What is now required, he added, is leadership from both Israelis and Palestinians in working together and advancing the cause of peace.

However, the Palestinian Authority’s decision to end security and economic coordination with Israel has further exacerbated the resurgent pandemic threat, which has resulted in tightened restrictions, he pointed out. Expressing particular concern over the spread of COVID-19 in the Gaza Strip and the long-term damage to the Palestinian economy, education and social cohesion, he said the United Nations and its humanitarian partners have continued efforts to address the pandemic with assistance from the donor community, including by addressing critical gaps in medical supplies across the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The Organization has brokered arrangements to allow the transfer of patients from Gaza outside the enclave, he added, warning, however, that the United Nations cannot take over the responsibilities of the parties, emphasizing that its additional tasks should be “limited and time-bound”.

Stressing the readiness of the United Nations to mediate solutions to the fiscal crisis and to get the Palestinian economy on better footing, he appealed for the resumption of coordination with Israel and for the facilitation of freer movement of Palestinian workers and goods once health conditions permit. The international community, he added, should accelerate humanitarian and development initiatives, he added.

He went on to express great concern over Israel’s resumption of major settlement during the reporting period, noting that it announced some 5,000 housing units in October, most in areas impeding the contiguity of a future Palestinian State. Such activity is contrary to international law and previous agreements, he reiterated. He reported that 82 Palestinians were displaced by the seizure and demolition of structures for lacking hard-to-obtain building permits, adding that a donor-funded school in a Bedouin community was threatened for the same reason. Calling upon Israel to cease such activity immediately, and to allow Palestinians to develop their communities, he also urged that country to facilitate the return of international staff members to the territories. There was no response to requests for visas from the Human Rights Office following a report of the Human Rights Council on business activities in the settlements, he noted.

Welcoming the understandings reached between Fatah and Hamas in September, he underlined the importance of holding long-delayed Palestinian elections, reiterating that the United Nations stands ready to support efforts to afford the Palestinian people their democratic rights. He went on to note that the Gaza understanding largely held during the reporting period. However, Israel took action after discovering Palestinians crossing with a bomb and a tunnel from Gaza, he added. Five rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel and Israel fired a total of 13 missiles in retaliation.

In the West Bank, two Palestinians, including a child, were killed and some 65 injured in clashes and other incidents, he continued. Seven Israelis, including two soldiers and one woman were injured. Reporting some 34 attacks by settlers against Palestinians, he underlined the need for Israel to ensure access and protection to farmers during the olive harvest. He went on to express deep concern over the health of a Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike, reiterating the need for all detainees to be promptly tried in court or released.

Regarding the diplomatic activity leading up to the normalization of relations between Israel on the one hand and United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan on the other, he expressed concern over statements by senior Palestinian officials to the effect that Muslims entering the Aqsa Mosque on the basis of the recent agreements face dangerous consequences. The United Nations rejects any politicization or incitement that involves the holy compound, he stressed.

Turning to Lebanon, he highlighted the designation of former prime minister Saad Hariri to form a Government and the holding of new talks on the Israel‑Lebanon maritime boundary. Reporting that the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has deployed an engineering unit to assist with reconstruction following the August explosion in the port of Beirut. The situation in UNIFIL’s area of operation remained generally stable, he added.

He went on to report that Golan, too, remained generally calm, despite continued violations of the Disengagement of Forces Agreement, adding that the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) continues to remind the parties of their obligations.

The Council the heard from speakers representing the Observer State of Palestine and Israel, as well as representatives of Security Council members. Written statements by other delegations were added to the written record of the meeting.

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