The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question - Security Council, 9021st Meeting

Preview Language:   Six Official
25-Apr-2022 02:59:32
Status quo of Jerusalem's holy sites must be upheld, Special Middle East Coordinator tells Security Council, as speakers express alarm over recent violent clashes.

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The status quo on Jerusalem’s holy sites must be upheld at all costs, speakers told the Security Council today, following the recent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces at Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount during religious holidays.

Giving updates to the 15-member organ, Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said that, despite his hope that this month and its holy days would be a peaceful and celebratory time, the period has been marked by violence. The situation in Jerusalem, however, remains relatively calm despite inflammatory rhetoric and violent clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli security forces at the holy sites.

All sides must do their part to reduce tensions, uphold the status quo at the holy sites, and ensure their sanctity is respected by all, he said, welcoming statements by senior Israeli officials reiterating Israel’s commitment to upholding the status quo and ensuring that only Muslims would be allowed to pray on the Holy Esplanade.

“At this sensitive and volatile moment, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have made some commendable efforts to ease tensions, condemn attacks and rein in violence,” he said. Regional and international partners, such as the United Nations, Egypt and Jordan, have engaged to help restore calm and ensure continued access for Muslim worshippers, he said, stressing that “these efforts should continue”.

The violence and spiralling tensions of the past month have underscored that efforts to manage the conflict are not a substitute for real progress towards resolving it, he said, stressing that a serious escalation is avoidable and sustained calm can open the space for more serious discussions about further improvements.

He then urged the parties to maintain calm so the final week of Ramadan can take place and be celebrated without interruption. “Having said that, we must not lose sight of the imperative to end the occupation and advance towards a two-State reality,” he said, expressing the United Nations’ determination to support Israelis and Palestinians in moving towards that future.

In the ensuing discussion, Israel and Palestine traded accusations about the incidents at the site, which is referred to by Muslims as “Haram al-Sharif” and as “Temple Mount” by Jews.

The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine said that a few days ago, Israeli occupying forces stormed the Aqsa Mosque compound/Haram al-Sharif, shooting at worshippers and desecrating the mosque with military boots and violence. He pointed out that 200 Palestinians, including women and children were wounded and 400 arrested, yet Israel claims it is upholding the historic status quo.

Not only does Israel use security to justify killing Palestinian children on their way to school, it labels Palestinian worshippers as terrorists, he continued. Jewish extremists and settlers are not merely visiting Haram al‑Sharif, but are seeking a takeover. Israel has no authority over Haram al‑Sharif where the historic and legal status quo must be upheld, he said, adding that the occupying Power is also targeting the Palestinian identity of the city.

Israel’s representative, noting the convergence of Passover, Easter and Ramadan in 2022, said that what could have been an opportunity for peaceful coexistence was instead used by Palestinian extremists to incite violence. Hundreds of Palestinian terrorists on the Temple Mount posed a threat to both Muslim and Jewish worshippers, and Israeli police had to intervene.

It is ludicrous to place mobs of violent rioters on the same moral scale as a law-abiding democracy making every effort to keep the peace, and such a comparison plays directly into the web of lies spun by terror groups, he said. Israel always ensures the freedom of worship for all religions and is committed to protecting holy sites and the status quo. The only ones breaking the status quo on the Temple Mount are Palestinian terror groups.

Council members and non-members alike called for the status quo of the holy sites to be maintained, expressing alarm about the violent clashes and urging both sides to exercise restraint and pursue peace through dialogue. France’s delegate said respect for the status quo of holy sites is essential and any allegations of the disproportionate use of force must be investigated. He added, however, that the root causes of conflict, such as the resumption of settlement activities and evictions, must end.

Mexico’s representative urged Israel to refrain from altering the demographic composition, institutional structure and the physical, cultural and historical characters of Jerusalem.

The speaker for the United Arab Emirates acknowledged recent steps taken by the Israeli Government to reduce tensions and urged similar steps be taken to create a stable, sustainable political environment and revive the Middle East peace process.

The representative of the United States condemned the rocket launches from Gaza and Lebanon by militant groups that are seeking to exploit the situation in Jerusalem to advance their narrow interests, adding that his country is engaged diplomatically with all sides and remains firmly committed to a two-State solution.

Jordan’s delegate called for international coordination to prevent alterations to the historic character of Jerusalem, adding that the Jordanian Administration is the only entity authorized to manage the affairs of the Aqsa Mosque compound in its entirety. His country has engaged with Palestinians and various international actors, such as Israel and the United States, within the framework of Jordan’s continued role in protecting holy sites, he said, demanding that Israel allow free access to the Aqsa Mosque compound and lift the restrictive barriers.

The speaker for Lebanon commended the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) for its role in de-escalating and reducing tensions and in preventing any miscalculation or escalation along the Blue Line, which remains indispensable in the context of the daily Israeli violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He asked the Security Council to consider extending UNIFIL’s provision of additional non-lethal material and logistical support to the Lebanese Armed Forces for one more year.

Syria’s delegate reiterated the call to grant Palestine full membership in the United Nations, also noting the threat posed by Israel’s actions to the security of his country and the region. Calling on the Security Council to enforce the 1974 Agreement on Disengagement between Israel and Syria, he pointed to a series of repeated Israeli attacks on Syrian territory, the last of which occurred on 14 April, around Damascus. Israeli measures aimed at changing the legal and demographic nature of the Golan, seizing land and property, looting natural resources and wealth, and implementing settlement plans are aimed at perpetuating the occupation and obliterating the Syrian identity of the occupied Syrian Golan, he added.

The Permanent Observer of the League of Arab States, echoing other speakers, said that, while the Council devotes attention to recent developments in Europe, it must neglect the protracted conflict in the Middle East. He urged the Council to preserve the legal status quo of East Jerusalem, calling for the Council to organize a field visit to the city, intensify efforts to help revive direct dialogue between the two parties and support Palestinian refugees and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Egypt’s representative, noting that continued attempts to “Judaize” East Jerusalem portend a dangerous escalation, called for an end to all unilateral measures in the West Bank. For its part, his country has invested $500 million in the Gaza Strip and continues to work with international and regional partners to ensure the resumption of negotiations towards a two-State solution.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Norway, Ghana, Kenya, Russian Federation, Ireland, Brazil, India, Gabon, China, Albania, United Kingdom, Algeria, Turkey, Morocco, Iran, Tunisia, Malaysia, Peru, South Africa, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Bahrain, Pakistan, Qatar, Venezuela, Kuwait, Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Oman and Cuba, as well as the Deputy Head of the European Union delegation. The Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People also spoke.

The meeting began at 10:06 a.m., suspended at 1:05 p.m., resumed at 3:03 p.m. and ended at 5:08 p.m.

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2731332