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UN Middle East envoy warns of ‘risk of violent escalation’

UN Middle East envoy warns of ‘risk of violent escalation’ after US decision on Jerusalem

8 December 2017 – Wednesday’s decision by United States President Donald Trump recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has been widely welcomed in Israel but it has also caused much anger among Palestinians and anxiety across the Middle East and beyond, the United Nations envoy on the region’s peace process told ta special Security Council meeting on Friday.

“I am particularly concerned about the potential risk of a violent escalation,” said Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov, briefing the 15-member Council via video-link.

He told the Council that for both Israelis and Palestinians, Jerusalem “is and will always remain an integral part of their national identity.” Moreover, for billions of people, it serves as a symbol and a cornerstone of their Christian, Jewish or Muslim faith. “That is why it remains one of the most sensitive places in the world.”

“[Yet] there is a serious risk […] that this will spark a chain of unilateral actions, which can only undermine the achievement of our shared goal,” Mr. Mladenov warned.

Since the US announcement, widespread demonstrations and violent clashes have occurred between Palestinian protestors and Israel Security Forces throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.

According to the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN’s relief wing, at least one Palestinian was killed and more than 140 injured.

Protests have also been reported in other Arab cities and villages within Israel, as well in cities around the region and beyond, from Lebanon and Jordan to Malaysia and Bangladesh.

Noting the symbolic, religious and emotional charge that Jerusalem holds for people across the world, Mr. Mladenov called on all political, religious and community leaders to “refrain from provocative action and rhetoric that could lead to escalation; and I call on all to exercise restraint and engage in dialogue.”

On 7 December, six rockets were reportedly fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israel. All but one landed short, without causing damage or injury. Israel Defense Forces responded by shelling a Hamas military installation in the Strip and bombing another from the air, causing damage but no injuries.

“It is now more important than ever that we preserve the prospects for peace. It will be ordinary Israelis and Palestinians – their families, their children – who will ultimately have to live with the human costs and the suffering caused by further violence,” stated the UN Special Coordinator, noting that will be critical in the coming days that leaders demonstrate “their wisdom and make all efforts to reduce the rhetoric, prevent incitement and rein in radical elements.”

Also in his briefing, Mr. Mladenov stressed that the Secretary-General António Guterres and the UN are committed to supporting Israeli and Palestinian leaders to return to meaningful negotiations to achieve a lasting and just peace for both peoples.

“This is the only way to achieve the legitimate national aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians,” he noted, recalling the statement made by the Secretary-General on Wednesday following the announcement concerning Jerusalem by President Trump.

“In this moment of great anxiety, I want to make it clear: there is no alternative to the two-state solution. There is no Plan B,” said Mr. Guterres, speaking to the press at UN Headquarters in New York.

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