Worrying developments on the ground have increased tensions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the past month and it is vital that both sides refrain from provocative actions, the top United Nations political official said today.
“While the immediate crisis may have passed, we remain concerned about the broader situation in East Jerusalem and the potential for renewed tensions,” Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe told the Security Council, referring to incidents around the Haram al Sharif/Temple Mount site, sacred to both Jews and Muslims.
“Even with the full determination and support of the international community to achieve a two-State solution, the essential ingredient is political will from the parties to meet their obligations and negotiate an end to the conflict,” he said in the regular monthly report on the conflict to the 15-member body.
Mr. Pascoe cited clashes in Jerusalem between Israeli police and Muslim worshippers at al-Aqsa mosque and subsequent confrontations, with the Islamic Movement of northern Israel claiming radical Jewish groups intended to alter the status quo of the holy site. “The Israeli authorities strongly deny these rumours,” he said. “Bitter accusations from both sides, however, underline the gulf of mistrust that exists.”
He stressed that the issue of the Old City of Jerusalem will only be fully resolved in final-status negotiations as part of the Roadmap peace plan championed by the so-called Quartet – the UN, European Union, Russia and the United States – that calls for two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
“Until then, the repeated call of the Quartet on Israel to refrain from provocative actions in East Jerusalem and on the Palestinian Authority to refrain from incitement remains more relevant than ever,” he stressed, also citing continuing Israeli “illegal” settlement activity in Palestinian areas.
Referring to a recent report of a UN mission that found evidence that both sides in the three-week war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza in December and January committed serious war crimes and breaches of humanitarian law, Mr. Pascoe reiterated Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call that all parties carry out a credible investigation into the conduct of the conflict without delay.
“The Secretary-General believes that international humanitarian law needs to be fully respected and civilians must be protected in all situations and circumstances,” he said, also noting a “worrying increase in violence” in the area, with 12 missiles fired from Gaza into Israel during the last month, and nine Israel incursions and 12 air strikes. “It is essential that calm not only be restored, but solidified,” he warned.
Despite extensive discussions, Israel has not yet approved the UN’s Gaza recovery proposals for schools, clinics and housing destroyed or damaged in the fighting, and is still blocking exports out of the area, while food and hygiene items continue to make up the bulk of the imports it allows in.
“The pattern of events over the last month in the Middle East is a powerful reminder that without a credible political horizon – including commitments made, monitored and kept on the ground, and a calling to account when obligations are breached – forces of violence, tension and extremism on both sides will fill the vacuum,” he concluded.
“Now, more than ever, it is vital that politics is made credible, and those who try to undermine politics by changing facts on the ground or resorting to violence are not allowed to set the agenda.”
More than 40 countries spoke in the Council’s ensuing open session.
In his latest report to the Council and General Assembly on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine, which was released yesterday, Mr. Ban called on the parties to honour all existing agreements and pursue an irreversible effort towards the two-State solution.