Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 January 2020

‘Explosive mix’ brings threat of new Palestinian-Israeli conflict, UN envoy says

Regional escalation, new Gaza violence and dormant peace talks exacerbate tense security situation, Nikolay Mladenov warns

Palestinians take part in an-anti Israel protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence in the southern Gaza Strip August 23, 2019. Reuters
Palestinians take part in an-anti Israel protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence in the southern Gaza Strip August 23, 2019. Reuters

The UN Middle East peace envoy warned on Tuesday that increased violence in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, the stalled peace process and rising regional tension was creating an “explosive mix”.

Nikolay Mladenov in Jerusalem told the UN Security Council by video link that Israel’s illegal settlement construction, terror attacks and lack of intention to revive peace talks fostered a greater risk of radicalisation in the Palestinian Territories.

In the past month, a 19-year-old Israeli was stabbed to death in the West Bank and an Israeli girl, 17, was killed by a roadside bomb near Dolev settlement, north-west of Ramallah.

Two Palestinian suspects were arrested in relation to the first case.

Mr Mladenov, the UN's special co-ordinator for the Middle East peace process, also touched on the Israeli drones crashing in the southern suburbs of Beirut on Saturday and the apparent strike on a Palestinian base in the Bekaa Valley along Lebanon's border with Syria on Monday.

“The United Nations calls on the parties to exercise maximum restraint both in action and rhetoric,” he said.

Mr Mladenov gave a dire assessment of relations between Israel's government and the Palestinian leadership.

In the past month two Palestinians and two Israelis were killed in the occupied West Bank and at least 102 Palestinians and seven Israelis were wounded in violence.

In response to the killing of the Israeli teenager near Dolev, the Israeli government submitted a plan for 300 new settler homes that will create a neighbourhood in the settlement.

At the same time, 22 Palestinian homes were seized or demolished in occupied East Jerusalem.

“Israel's policy of demolishing Palestinian property is not compatible with its obligations under international law,” Mr Mladenov said.

There was no specific mention on Tuesday of the Trump administration's Middle East peace plan, which included a June summit in Bahrain focused on “Palestinian prosperity”.

But the acting head of the US delegation to the UN asked countries to keep an open mind about the plan.

The prospect of peace between Palestinians and Israelis is at its lowest ebb in recent memory.

There is broad scepticism over the long-promised US peace plan after a series of decisions from President Donald Trump that favoured Israel.

Mr Trump has moved the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem, ended American funding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees and recognised Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights.

The US also closed the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington and refused to publicly confirm its commitment to a two-state solution.

Beyond the US and Israel, there is international agreement that peace can come about only with two states sharing Jerusalem as their capitals.

The Palestinians seek the occupied East Jerusalem and West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, as the foundation of any sovereign state.

After Mr Mladenov's briefing neither the Israeli nor Palestinian ambassadors to the UN made statements.

But Russian ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy warned that Israel's military activities on the Syrian border was creating an “incandescent” risk of escalation.

Updated: August 28, 2019 01:44 AM

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