Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Middle East’

Events in #Jerusalem could have catastrophic consequences across the #MiddleEast #UN

25/07/2017 7 comments

FullSizeRenderI spoke to the media after the extraordinary UN Secuirty Council discussion on the situation in Jerusalem. Here is what I said:

“I want to start by thanking the Chinese Presidency of the Security Council for accepting the request by Egypt, Sweden and France to have a discussion on the situation in Jerusalem before the open debate tomorrow. Allow me to say a few words about what I presented today to the Security Council.

Let me begin by once again calling on all parties to

refrain from provocative actions, show restraint, and find a solution.

It is extremely important that a solution to the current crisis be found by Friday this week as the dangers on the ground will escalate if we go through another cycle of Friday prayers without a resolution.

I asked Security Council Member States to use their influence with all sides in order to encourage them to de-escalate, to ensure that while security is provided for worshippers and visitors to the holy sites in Jerusalem, the status quo that has been established since 1967 is preserved for all.

It is critically important that

the status quo be preserved in Jerusalem,

and I want to welcome once again the assurances that Prime Minister Netanyahu has provided that Israel has no interest in changing it.

I encourage Israel to continue its intense contacts with Jordan, in light with the Hashemite Kingdom’s special and historic role in Jerusalem, to find a solution to the crisis.

I asked the Member States of the Security Council to unequivocally

condemn the violence of the last few days.

We have seen Palestinians being killed in clashes with Israeli security forces. We have seen an Israeli family being slaughtered in a terrorist attack in a settlement in the West Bank. All incidents deserve the full condemnation of the international community and our thoughts and prayers must go out to their families of the victims.

Jerusalem is perhaps one of the most critical cities in the world. It is an emotionally, religiously and historically charged place for billions of people. East Jerusalem is a final status issue that needs to be decided and negotiated between the two sides.

As the occupying power, Israel has a responsibility to uphold its obligations under International Human Rights Law and Humanitarian Law, and must show maximum restraint in order to avoid further loss of life and an escalation of the situation.

At the same time, the Palestinian leadership also has a responsibility to avoid provocative actions and statements that further aggravate an already tense environment. I am particularly concerned by some statements that have been made by some Palestinian factions that seek to fan the flames of violence and I call on all to condemn such statements and actions.

Ahead of tomorrow, I hope that all Member States, when they speak at the open debate will be careful

to avoid statements that further inflame the situation

and to call on all parties to de-escalate and find a solution that is based on the status quo and the need to ensure security for all worshippers and visitors to the holy sites in Jerusalem.

In closing let me say that nobody should be mistaken that these events can be localized. In fact, they may be taking place over a couple of hundreds square meters in Jerusalem, but they affect hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people around the world. They have the potential to have catastrophic consequences well beyond the walls of the old city, well beyond Israel and Palestine, well beyond the Middle East itself.

This crisis, in fact any such crisis, is a step backwards. It is a step away from what we need to focus on and that is how to bring the parties back to a political process in order to find a solution that meets the legitimate national aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians; that is based on UN Security Council Resolutions and relevant international law; that is achieved through negotiations and that has the ultimate result of two states, which is what the international consensus on how to resolve this conflict requires.

It is critically important to also understand that these events take place at a time of political vacuum, at a time when the political perspective is still missing. This is why it is important for all of us to focus on restoring a political perspective, on helping bring Palestinians and Israelis back into an environment that is conducive to negotiations on a final status arrangement, and to do that in a manner that avoids turning that national Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a religious one.

Tomorrow I will return to Jerusalem and continue our direct engagement with all stakeholders in order to facilitate a quick end to this crisis and a return to the situation which would allow the status quo to be observed, as well as for people to have safe and secure access to the holy sites in Jerusalem.

Nickolay Mladenov (Special Coordinator) on the situation in the West Bank – Security Council Media Stakeout (24 July 2017)

‘Legalization Bill’ has serious legal consequences for #Israel, #WestBank and undermines peace

06/12/2016 2 comments
3500

Israeli settlers at Amona, near Ramallah in the West Bank. Photograph: Ronen Zvulen/Reuters via The Guardian

On August 29th I briefed the UN Security Council on the upsurge of settlement related activity in the West Bank, warning that ‘no legal acrobatics’ can change the fact that such construction is illegal under International law. Since then a draft bill, known the “Legalization bill” is moving forward in the legislative process. It has the objective of protecting illegal settlements and outposts built on private Palestinian property in the West Bank. Some have pronounced it to be a step towards the annexation of the West Bank.

If adopted, it will have far reaching legal consequences for Israel, across the occupied West Bank and will greatly diminish the prospect of Arab-Israeli peace. I encourage Israeli legislators to reconsider this move.

I reiterate that all settlement activities are illegal under international law and run counter to the Middle East Quartet position that settlements are one of the main obstacles to peace.

We must avoid the risk of sleep-walking into another violent conflict in Gaza

19/10/2016 1 comment

On 19 October I briefed the UN Security Council on the situation in the Middle East. Although international focus on the Question of Palestine may have been overtaken by the tragedy in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, but it cannot be allowed to be relegated to a secondary problem.

Sadly, settlement announcements, outbreaks of violence and terror, and the absence of visionary leadership continue to define the conflict. The inability to see beyond the horizon and grasp the benefits of resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict, of ending the occupation, of establishing a two-state solution that meets the national aspirations of both Palestinians and Israelis alike, is a historic loss to the region as a whole.The absence of progress has led to growing anger and frustration among Palestinians and profound disillusionment among Israelis. It has strengthened radicals and weakened moderates on both sides.

On October 9th, a Palestinian opened fire, killing two Israelis and injuring six others in a terror attack in occupied East Jerusalem. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims. Deplorably, Hamas and many others chose to justify and glorify the attack and its perpetrator. 

This tragic incident once again underscores an undeniable truth – if Palestinians genuinely hope to reach the long-overdue goal of statehood and an end to the occupation, this will not be achieved through violence, but must be reached through negotiations. In separate incidents, during recent clashes in East Jerusalem, a 20-year-old Palestinian civilian died after being shot by Israeli security forces. Separately, an unarmed 12 year old girl was also shot in the legs by security guards while approaching a checkpoint.

I spoke of the fact that during the past month Israel has continued with settlement planning, including the recent promotion of an initial 98 out of 300 housing units in Shilo, located deep in the occupied West Bank. If implemented, this plan will drive a wedge between north and south in the West Bank and jeopardize the contiguity of a future Palestinian state. Israeli officials have defined this move as an attempt to relocate settlers from the illegal Amona outpost, which has been slated for demolition by the Israeli Supreme Court.
I once again reiterated the position of the Secretary-General that settlements are illegal under international law and undermine the two-state solution.
Adding to this troubling overall picture, I noted that Palestinians have again been unable to exercise their democratic rights after local council elections in the West Bank and Gaza were postponed. The political bickering, mutual accusations, legal challenges and counter-challenges that followed have left the people of Gaza and the West Bank feeling more apart.
I also stated my concern at recent calls by Hamas legislators in Gaza for the Hamas led government to resume its work in Gaza. Such a step would seriously undermine the Palestinian Government of National Consensus and would also make the reconciliation almost impossible.

In a previous breifing in August, I raised UN and international concerns about the steady continuation of Israel’s policy of expanding its presence in the occupied West Bank. Today, I focused on another impediment to a negotiated solution — the security, humanitarian and political situation in Gaza. Three deadly conflicts in the past eight years have eroded both Palestinian belief that Israel wants anything more than Gaza’s destruction and Israeli conviction that their Palestinian neighbours desire peace. Fueling Israeli fears is that Gaza is controlled by a de facto authority whose overtly anti-Semitic Charter equates resistance with violence, rejects peaceful solutions and aspires to the obliteration of Israel.

Israel accuses Gaza militants of continuously seeking to obtain money and military matériel, including by smuggling in civilian boats, concealing components for the production of rockets inside commercial shipments and diverting construction materials from needy beneficiaries. The United Nations has been informed by Israel of at least 41 serious smuggling attempts which have been intercepted since the beginning of 2016. Although the UN lacks the capacity to independently confirm the smuggling accusations, if accurate, they show the intention to continue attacks against Israel.
Last week, I travelled to Gaza where I witnessed warehouses, empty of construction materials, as the reconstruction process is significantly slowing down. And this is due to limitations of imports. No new residential reconstruction projects have been approved since March. In the recent days the approval of some 80 projects – some of which had already been started – has been revoked by Israel.
I saw residential buildings half built. I met with families whose projects have been cleared for reconstruction, yet have not received any cement for months. I heard from those that have tried to navigate the web of rules governing the import of materials considered ‘dual-use’ with no luck or response. I stand with the people in Gaza who have suffered through conflicts, closures and continue to face unimaginable suffering.

At current rates, it will take more than one year to catch up on the backlog of approved projects and years to address the full housing and reconstruction shortage in Gaza. These trends are worrying and I call on the parties to the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism to recommit once again to ensuring its smooth operation. Failing to do that will put in question the viability of the mechanism and undermine the precarious calm in Gaza today.

According to some estimates, in the last decade, militants in Gaza have fired nearly 16,000 rockets and mortars at Israel. Some 200 projectiles have been fired since the end of the last conflict. While since 2014 there has been little damage or injury, there is an ever-present risk of a potentially catastrophic escalation that neither wants nor needs.
During the 2014 conflict, Israel discovered and destroyed 14 tunnels crossing into its territory and, in May of this year, detected and destroyed two more.
I reiterated the joint position of Russia, the United States, the European Union and the Secretary-General of the UN as stated in the Quartet report: the illicit arms build-up and militant activity in Gaza must be terminated. Such actions increase the risk of a new escalation of hostilities, keep thousands of people on both sides of the border under constant threat of attack, and undermine the reconstruction process. The militant threat, however, should not serve as an excuse for Israel to indiscriminately harm civilians in Gaza. In addition to the continuing severely restrictive closures, I am concerned by persistent incursions and the almost daily firing and shelling by Israeli forces into Gaza along the fence and at sea.

The vicious cycles of conflict in Gaza must end. 

To do so, control of Gaza must return to the Palestinian Government of National Unity committed to the PLO principles. The closures on Gaza must also be lifted in line with Security Council resolution 1860. Palestinians and Israelis both deserve the right to lead a normal life in freedom and security, with their human rights respected. Since Hamas’ takeover of Gaza in 2007 40 per cent of Palestinians living in the occupied territory are beyond the control of the legitimate Palestinian government. Israel’s closure policy and severe restrictions have brought social, cultural and economic interaction between Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza to a virtual standstill. The widening chasm that has emerged between both parts of the occupied Palestinian territory undermines the national state-building enterprise and threatens the very viability of establishing a unified Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution. Unity is, therefore, critical.

I encouraged Hamas to pursue reconciliation with Fatah in line with the PLO principles and to consider redefining its political stance.

Turning briefly to the Golan I stated my continuing concern by the volatile situation which undermines the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement and jeopardises the ceasefire between Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic. It remains critical that the parties to the Disengagement Agreement maintain liaison with UNDOF in the first instance, exercise maximum restraint and refrain from any action that could escalate the situation across the ceasefire line and the already volatile regional environment.

In closing, I issued two warnings.Firstly, to those who believe that the people of Gaza can be punished by closures or by imposing restrictions on the entry of construction materials that are vital for the economy. They should know that the temperature in Gaza is rising. Secondly, to those who build tunnels, fire rockets, smuggle military materiel, profit from the black market or seek to create confrontation. Their actions are dangerous and irresponsible. They are stealing from their own people and risk the lives of Palestinians and Israelis alike.

We must all avoid the risk of sleep-walking into another violent conflict at a time when the region as a whole needs moderate forces to unite and stand up to the radicalisation that we see across the Middle East. Gaza’s future is inextricably linked to the future of the Palestinian people and their goal of establishing an independent state. But the longer its population continues to suffer under the intolerable weight of Gaza’s current dynamics, the further Palestinians are from realizing that objective, and the closer we are unfortunately to the next major escalation.

I condemn today’s #terror attack in #Jerusalem. Deplorable that #Hamas glorify such acts

09/10/2016 Leave a comment

jerusalem-shootingI condemn this morning’s terror attack by a Palestinian perpetrator in occupied East Jerusalem which killed two Israelis and injured six others. Nothing can justify such attacks.

My thoughts are with the families and friends of all victims and I hope for a full and speedy recovery of the wounded.

It is deplorable and unacceptable that Hamas and others choose to glorify such acts which undermine the possibility of a peaceful future for both Palestinians and Israelis

New #Duma arson attack; #Israel must ensure vulnerable #WestBank #Palestinian communities are protected

20/07/2016 2 comments

PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-ATTACKI am concerned by reports of yet another arson attack on the home of the Dawabsha family last night in Duma in the occupied West Bank. If confirmed, this despicable act would be the third incident in this particular village in the last year.

Since the 31 July 2015 terrorist arson attack in which Jewish extremists torched the Dawabsha home, killing three family members and leaving four year-old Ahmed orphaned, indictments have been made, but the perpetrators of this terrible crime have yet to face justice. I call upon the authorities to move swiftly in bringing the perpetrators of this terrible crime, as well as this latest incident, to justice.

I also urge Israel, as the occupying power, to ensure that vulnerable Palestinian communities in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are protected in line with its obligations under international law.

#BREAKING: #MiddleEast Quartet report on #Israel #Palestine published

01/07/2016 Leave a comment

You can download the full report here.

Its objective is not to be a scorecard for assigning blame, but to provide a constructive way forward towards achieving a negotiated two-state solution. Any other outcome entrenches a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and conflict that is incompatible with realising the national aspirations of both peoples.

I hope that on the basis of this report the Quartet can engage with the parties and the region in creating the conditions for a return to meaningful negotiations.

http://www.unsco.org/Documents/Key/Quartet%20Report%20and%20Statement%20-%201%20July%202016.pdf

I refuse to accept that Palestinians and Israelis want to live “by the sword”, peace requires leadership

19/11/2015 Leave a comment
Visiting Hebron earlier this month, where the Old City streets are barricaded; houses are emptied of life; lives are caged in by metal grids...

Visiting Hebron earlier this month, where the Old City streets are barricaded; houses are emptied of life; lives are caged in by metal grids…

Earlier today I delivered my monthly briefing to the UN Security Council on the situation in the Middle East. I started by extending, on behalf of the UN family in Jerusalem, our deepest condolences and sympathies to the families of the victims of the abhorrent terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut and the Sinai. These tragic events serve to reinforce the reality that the extremism and terrorism that has infected many parts of the Middle East is not constrained by borders. It can strike anywhere, anytime, and poses a grave threat to international peace and security.

Against this backdrop we cannot separate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from this global threat.

Establishing a Palestinian state, while addressing Israel’s substantial security concerns, would yield major dividends not only for Israelis and Palestinians alike, but for the entire region.

Over the past month, there were 36 reported attacks, including stabbings or attempted stabbings, shootings, or car-rammings, by Palestinians against Israelis in Israel and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. They left seven Israelis dead and 36 injured, including today’s attack in Tel Aviv and an attack just now in the settlement of Gush Etzion. The two apparent sniper attacks in Hebron on 10 November, which would be the first of their kind since the current escalation began, and the brutal drive-by shooting south of Hebron, on 13 November which killed a father and his son are worrying signs of escalation from the use of knives to firearms. Of the suspected Palestinian assailants, 25 were killed.

According to OCHA, during the reporting period, in clashes across the West Bank and Gaza 11 Palestinians were killed and over 3,500 injured, with seven others injured in settler-related violence.

I reiterated

the United Nations’ resolute condemnation of all terrorist attacks

and called on political, community and religious leaders on all sides to speak out against terror and all forms of violence.

Since the last briefing, the epicentre of violence has moved to Hebron, which like Jerusalem, has holy sites revered by both Muslims and Jews and has been a cause of friction for decades.

Hebron is the heart of the Palestinian economy. Its vitality is unmistakable and its vast potential for growth is broadly recognised. It is the West Bank’s largest city with a population of some 170,000. It is also its industrial and commercial engine. Annual exports to Israel amount to over 240 million dollars. The city’s continued development is, thus, integral to the economic viability of a future Palestinian state.

A walk through the Old City, however, evokes a starkly different image: streets barricaded and unnaturally cut off; houses emptied of life and activity; lives caged in by metal grids and turnstiles.

Over the past twenty years the city’s Palestinian and Jewish populations have been physically separated.  The economic impact of the violence raging in and around Hebron has been severe for the entire district. Once thriving markets are now eerily abandoned. Over the last decade hundreds of shops located in the Israeli controlled “H2” area have been shut down either by military order or due to lack of business.

I told the Security Council that I plan to return soon to Hebron with the UN Country Team to discuss with the Governor and the Mayor what programmes we can initiate to support the recovery of the area and to support community dialogue.

Ending the violence and de-escalating the overall situation in Jerusalem, Hebron and other areas must remain our immediate priority. But as the Secretary-General has consistently stated, this cannot be achieved through security measures alone. All parties must play a part in implementing measures that could have a positive impact.

These include:

1.     Immediate efforts by all political, religious and community leaders to stop the hate-fuelled incitement that glorifies the murder of Jews or that brands all Palestinians as terrorists;

2.     Recent understandings on upholding the status quo at Haram-Al Sharif / Temple Mount must also be implemented;

3.     It is necessary to address the apparent impunity for settler violence against Palestinians;

4.     The sanctity of burial rituals must be recognised and Palestinians must be allowed to bury their deceased without unnecessary delay;

5.     Within Hebron restrictions must be eased and Hebron’s main commercial artery, al-Shuhada Street, should be reopened in accordance with the 1994 Hebron Protocols;

6.     Taking steps to bolster security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority to prevent any further deterioration of the situation;

7.     Finally, the use of firearms by Israeli security forces should be employed only when less extreme means are insufficient to address an imminent threat of death or serious injury.

Dealing with the threats that kill the prospect of a two-state solution is also critical. The reality in which a settler state is emerging in the occupied West Bank must be reversed if hope is to be reignited.

I noted my concern with the decision announced on November 18th to issue tenders for 436 housing units in the East Jerusalem settlement of Ramat Shlomo, the first such tender announcement in over a year. Equally worrisome are the five punitive demolitions of family houses of alleged perpetrators of terrorist acts carried out by Israel over the past week. I reiterated that

settlement activity and punitive demolitions are illegal under international law.

They also deepen mistrust between the parties and further aggravate an already highly tense environment.

In a troubling development, Israeli forces have carried out several raids on hospitals, including at Al Makassed hospital in East Jerusalem and at al-Ahli hospital in Hebron. My deputy and UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory has called on the authorities to respect health facilities and the right of all individuals to receive health care.

During the reporting period, the security situation in Gaza was relatively calm compared to the West Bank, despite three fatalities as a result of clashes near the border fence. Having said that however, seven rockets were fired toward Israel, three of which impacted Israeli territory, without causing fatalities. Palestinian militants also test fired 14 rockets at the sea. The IDF responded with six airstrikes and three limited incursions into the Gaza Strip. On at least four occasions, Israeli forces opened fire at Palestinians at sea, resulting in injuries to at least two persons. In a worrying development Israel intercepted the attempted illegal transfer of 450 litres of TDI (Toluene di-isocyanate) a hazardous substance that can be used for the production of a large quantity of rockets.

I called on all factions on the ground in Gaza not to engage in activities that risk destabilising the situation

and undermining the reconstruction process. Particularly as the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) continues to function effectively. In October, a new stream was introduced to simplify access to construction materials to finish housing units, which had been started – but not completed – prior to last year’s conflict. Under this stream, over 6,000 applicants have so far been introduced into the system.

In a welcome development, as of mid-October, Israel removed aggregate from the list of dual-use materials. The good news, however, has been tempered by the addition of other items, including timber, to the list this year. These additions hinder Gaza’s reconstruction and I called on the Israeli authorities to reconsider their decision.

Based on developments on the ground, the current conditions make a return to negotiations a challenging prospect.

Trust must be rebuilt and, for that, bold and significant steps on the ground must be taken in order to tangibly improve lives and irreversibly move towards the end of occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

In the period before an eventual return to negotiations, the parties and their international partners must pursue measures that strengthen institutions, economic prospects and security. This will require substantial policy changes on the ground by Israel.

The Middle East Quartet remains the principle international entity to support and encourage negotiations

towards a comprehensive and just resolution of the conflict The Quartet envoys plan to travel to the region in the coming period to engage directly with the parties.

Meanwhile, we continue to look to the Security Council for any additional guidance on developing a new peace architecture for resolving the conflict.

Turning to the wider region, I noted that the Council was briefed yesterday on developments in Lebanon, including in Beirut, therefore I did not add anything on that issue.

I said, however, that the Syrian conflict for its part continues to take a devastating toll on the Syrian people and beyond and poses an even graver threat to international peace and security. For all of these reasons,

the Secretary-General is greatly encouraged

that in Vienna the international community has finally re-engaged in searching for a political settlement to the Syrian conflict based on the transition elements of the 2012 Geneva Communiqué. It is important that key international and regional players follow through on their commitments to actively insist on their Syrian allies to engage constructively in all of these areas. This is vital in order to give political backing, leverage and credibility to our efforts.

Turning to the Golan, I discussed the situation that remains volatile with clashes between the Syrian government forces and armed groups, shelling and occasional airstrikes continuing in the areas of separation and limitation, in particular in Ufaniyah, Jabbata Al Khashab and Al Baath in the central part of the area of separation. In the context of these clashes, fire from the Bravo side has impacted across the ceasefire line. On 13 October, the Israel Defence Forces notified UNDOF that they had retaliated to spill-over fire from the Bravo side by firing three missiles at Syrian armed forces positions in the area of limitation. UNDOF did not observe the alleged firing from the Bravo side. These events have the potential to escalate tensions between Israel and Syria, jeopardising the ceasefire between the two countries. Under these challenging circumstances, however, UNDOF continues to use its best efforts to carry out its mandate.

In closing, I said that

I refuse to be convinced that Israelis and Palestinians want to live “by the sword” and in a state of perpetual violence.

We owe it to the people of this troubled land, who, despite endless setbacks and disappointments, have continued to maintain hope that negotiated peace can be realised.

I assured the Council that the Secretary-General remains steadfast in his support of any effort to restore the hope that a two-state solution can be achieved through negotiations.

But the long road ahead requires leadership. Leadership that has been glaringly absent to date…