Rising Tensions amid Crisis in Jerusalem Threaten Israel, Palestine with ‘Vortex of Violence’, Religious Conflict, Special Coordinator Warns Security Council

SC/12927
25 July 2017
8011th Meeting (AM)

Rising Tensions amid Crisis in Jerusalem Threaten Israel, Palestine with ‘Vortex of Violence’, Religious Conflict, Special Coordinator Warns Security Council

Both Sides Accused of Incitement to Violence Fuelled by Different Motivations

Swift, decisive action was required to revive negotiations and end the crisis in Jerusalem and beyond before rising tensions dragged both Israel and Palestine into a vortex of violence and a religious conflict, the Special Coordinator of the Middle East Peace Process told the Security Council today.

“Let us make no mistake that while events in Jerusalem may be taking place over a couple of hundred square metres, they affect hundreds of millions of people around the world,” Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov said in outlining developments that followed the killing of two Israeli police officers on 14 July.  They included the closure of holy sites, a deadly terrorist attack and the Palestinian Authority’s decision of 21 July to freeze all contact with Israel.

Despite peace efforts and new-found agreement that States would stand united against terrorism and radicalism, he said, societies continued to fracture along ethnic or religious lines, with non-State actors maintaining control over large territories as events in Jerusalem resonated across the region.  “The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not only about land and peace,” he emphasized.  “It is about two peoples who both have legitimate national aspirations for statehood and recognition,” he said, declaring:  “Two nations whose histories are intertwined and whose future is forever intricately linked.”

Commending decisions by Israeli and Palestinian authorities to restore access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and services to Gaza, he called upon both sides to refrain from activities that could exacerbate tensions.  “We must not lose focus on the need to restore a political perspective, on the need to bring Palestinians and Israelis back into an environment that is conductive to negotiations on a final status arrangement and avoids turning the national Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a religious one,” he stressed.

Representatives of both sides also shared their respective perspectives.  “We are clearly at the tipping point,” said the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, adding that Israel had once again inflamed the fragile situation in occupied East Jerusalem, as the occupying Power pressed ahead with its reckless and destructive agenda against Palestinian people and holy sites, including Al-Haram al-Sharif.  Israel’s stoking of a religious conflict was unfolding rapidly as it persisted in its illegal actions, even as occupied East Jerusalem was besieged by military checkpoints, occupation forces, settlements as well as violent, armed settlers.  Meanwhile, conditions in the Gaza Strip were “unliveable for humans”, he said, appealing for immediate action to save Palestinian civilians there and avert another explosive crisis.

Israel’s representative said that terrorist attacks followed relentless incitement to violence by Palestinian officials, payments to convicted terrorists and their families, the naming of schools and monuments for them and the celebration of horrific events.  “This incitement, this culture of hate, this glorification of terror must end now,” he emphasized.  Whereas Israel’s top priority was to maintain the safety and security of all Temple Mount worshipers and visitors, the Palestinian Authority had mastered the art of deceit and the international community had fallen for it, he said.  Convicted terrorists were called “political prisoners” and almost 30 per cent of foreign aid was used to bankroll terror.  The Security Council must end “this vulgar exploitation of international aid”, hold the Palestinians accountable, and ensure that their children were taught to seek peace, he stressed.  Only then would real peace be possible in the region.

The Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People described the question of Palestine as the longest-standing item on the United Nations agenda.  The Committee had repeatedly stressed the illegality of the Gaza blockade, which amounted to collective punishment and had generated one of the worst humanitarian crises.  It had constantly pronounced itself on the illegality of Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, she said, emphasizing that Israel’s recent announcement of an additional 4,000 settlement housing units pointed to a complete lack of accountability.

Council members condemned the recent violence, with some highlighting the ongoing schism between Fatah and Hamas, as well as Israel’s announcement of new settlement activity on Palestinian lands as factors putting a return to the peace process in jeopardy.  Many delegates voiced concern over the deteriorating situation in Gaza, where 2 million citizens lived amid shortages of electricity, water, sanitation and other critical services.  Speakers called on Israel to uphold its obligations as the occupying Power, and on Palestinian authorities to reconcile their differences, urging both sides to take a broader view and further steps long the road towards a two-State solution and lasting peace.

Others shared their ideas on forward movement towards that goal.  China’s representative said his country had proposed a tripartite effort, alongside Israel and Palestine, to promote progress towards a breakthrough.  Relevant resolutions must be implemented and firm efforts to advance peace must support the two-State solution, he said, adding that both sides must base their efforts upon United Nations resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.  Calling for implementation of resolution 2334 (2016) and an immediate halt to all settlement activities, he emphasized that the international community must do its part to calm the current tensions.

Egypt’s representative said that dangerous events in and beyond Jerusalem were exacerbating the situation in the Muslim world.  Urging all sides to refrain from provoking religious tensions, increasing Palestinian suffering and harming the prospects for lasting peace, he said Egypt remained committed to working with Israel and Palestine towards a just solution.  Efforts to relaunch negotiations and end the divisions among Palestinians would continue, he said, pointing out that Arab countries had committed themselves to a land-for-peace solution, and a recent summit in Amman, Jordan, had reiterated its support for that approach.

Jordan’s representative said the events at Al-Haram al-Sharif risked exacerbating the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, and terrorists could exploit them to justify their own activities.  The potential repercussions could plunge the region into a religious war, she warned.  The Security Council must prevent the situation from spiralling out of control, by tackling the deep-rooted causes of the tensions, she said, reiterating calls for an emergency ministerial meeting to address access to holy sites in Jerusalem.

Saudi Arabia’s representative condemned Israeli actions in Jerusalem, recalling that all worshippers had been treated with respect under Muslim Arab rule.  Under the occupation, however, an Israeli settler had attacked worshippers Israelis had been seen kicking praying worshippers, he said.  Such actions demonstrated the doctrine of Israeli occupation — that of terrorizing Palestinians.

Iran’s representative said that the Israeli authorities, emboldened by the support of the new United States Administration, were questioning and challenging the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to their homelands more than ever before.  The latest brutal crackdown had been carried out to prevent Palestinian worshippers from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque, he said.  Additionally, Israel’s fast‑growing illegal settlements constituted not only a grave breach of the fourth Geneva Convention, but also a war crime, he said, emphasizing that world Powers, especially the United States, were undermining the counter-terrorism efforts they claimed to champion, while bombing Syria and Yemen and preventing the delivery of humanitarian aid at the same time.

Indonesia’s representative said any attack on Al-Aqsa should be considered a “very dangerous red line”, noting that its closure had not only exacerbated the situation, but also signalled to the world how strongly Israel wished to distance itself from any two-State solution.  The closure constituted a blatant move in Israel’s continuing effort to alter the geographic and demographic character of Jerusalem, he said, emphasizing that the international community must push back against any such attempt.  Continuous efforts to curtail and hamper the ability of worshippers to enter the mosque contravened the basic tenets of decency, he said, adding that those actions had generated greater mistrust, as well as further animosity and extremism.

Cuba’s representative said the Council must adopt specific measures to end the occupation and the crisis, warning that a two-State solution and a lasting settlement would be impossible if Israeli continued to violate international law.  Cuba would continue to support the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, she said, urging the Council to take up its responsibility after a decade of the Gaza blockade.

Others speaking today were representatives of the United States, Kazakhstan, France, Bolivia, Senegal, Russian Federation, Sweden, Ethiopia, Japan, Italy, Uruguay, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Lebanon, Brazil, Pakistan, Peru, Argentina, Iran, Turkey, Namibia, Indonesia, Kuwait, South Africa, Qatar, Syria, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan (for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Morocco, Venezuela (for the Non-Aligned Movement), Botswana, Nigeria, Iceland, Viet Nam, Bahrain, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the European Union and the Holy See.

Representatives of Syria, Israel and Saudi Arabia took the floor a second time.

The meeting began at 10:07 a.m., suspended at 1:12 p.m., resumed at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 6:10 p.m.

Briefing

NICKOLAY MLADENOV, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said that, despite peace efforts and a new-found agreement among countries to stand united against terrorism and radicalism, societies continued to fracture along ethnic or religious lines, with non-State actors maintaining control over large territories as events in Jerusalem resonated across the region.  “The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not only about land and peace,” he said.  “It is about two peoples who both have legitimate national aspirations for statehood and recognition,” he added, declaring:  “Two nations whose histories are intertwined and whose future is forever intricately linked.”

However, developments at holy sites in Jerusalem over the past 11 days demonstrated the grave risk of a dangerous escalation, including the transformation of the conflict into a religious one, he warned, emphasizing the risk of dragging both sides, and the rest of the region, into a vortex of violence.  Recent events included the killing of two Israeli police officers, the closure of holy sites and installation of metal detectors, the deadly terrorist attack, and the Palestinian Authority’s decision on 21 July to freeze all contact with Israel.

“Let us make no mistake,” he stressed.  “While events in Jerusalem may be taking place over a couple of hundred square metres, they affect hundreds of millions of people around the world.”  Welcoming the decision by Israel’s security Cabinet on 24 July to remove metal detectors, he said it was expected that President Mahmoud Abbas would convene the Palestinian leadership to discuss developments.  Given the views of East Jerusalem residents, it was critical that any decision made at the highest political and religious levels consider the fears and hopes of the two peoples.

He went on to underline that Jerusalem remained a final status issue that must be decided and negotiated between the two sides.  Israel, as the occupying Power, must uphold international law, and Palestinian leaders must refrain from making statements that aggravated the situation.  The current crisis had diverted the parties from addressing the real task at hand — finding a solution that would see the ultimate goal realized:  two States living side by side in peace.

However, plans for additional housing units in East Jerusalem and other settlements had been advanced, he said, adding that such settlement activity was illegal and undermined the chances of reaching that goal.  Yet, there had been progress, he said, pointing to the 10 July interim agreement on an electricity substation in Jenin and the drafting of a water supply agreement for the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.  Unfortunately, those gains would evaporate without a resolution to the current crisis, he noted.

Turning to the situation in Gaza, he pointed out that more than 2 million people were suffering due to the ongoing tensions, hostages in a political standoff between Fatah and Hamas.  Electricity and water shortages, as well as other deprivations, had intensified their suffering.  “The United Nations will not give up on Gaza and its people,” he emphasized.  “Despite the odds, we will continue our intense mediation efforts to resolve the standoff.”  Thanking Egypt for its delivery of badly needed fuel, he said such measures provided a temporary lifeline for Gaza citizens, noting also that Qatar had signed contracts for the reconstruction of eight buildings.

“Palestinian leaders must make some hard choices about the future of their people,” he said, warning:  “They can resolve the current crisis or preside over the radicalization of their population and see it fall into the hands of extremists with even more destructive agendas.”  He called upon the Palestinian leadership to address the destructive consequences of the Fatah-Hamas split, encouraging them to reach agreement.  Hamas must ensure calm by ceasing its militant build-up against Israel and maintaining security at the border with Egypt, he said, while encouraging Israel to lift closures and allow rebuilding.

Recent events were a reminder of how easy it could be to reach a dangerous escalation, he said, expressing hope that Israel’s agreement with Jordan and positive engagement with religious authorities would result in actions that would circumvent violence in the future.  “We must not lose focus on the need to restore a political perspective, on the need to bring Palestinians and Israelis back into an environment that is conductive to negotiations on a final status arrangement and avoids turning the national Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a religious one,” he emphasized.

Statements

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, said he had come before the Council amid escalating tensions, instability and a profound sense of worry.  The fragile situation in occupied East Jerusalem had been inflamed yet again by Israel as the occupying Power pressed forward with its reckless and destructive agenda against the Palestinian people and holy sites, including Al-Haram al-Sharif.  The stoking of a religious conflict was unfolding rapidly as Israel persisted in its illegal actions, including its aggressive behaviour and provocative violations of the historic status quo at Al-Haram al-Sharif, he said, emphasizing that Israel was aggravating religious sensitivities to the point of eruption.  “We are clearly at the tipping point,” he warned.  Occupied East Jerusalem was besieged by military checkpoints, occupation forces, settlements as well as violent, armed settlers.

The Palestinian people were resisting the recent provocative measures and peacefully expressing their rejection of illegal measures against their rights and holy sites, he said.  Yet, Israel continued to ignore the international community, he said, underlining the need for a clear, unified message that Israel must cease and reverse all such illegal a1tions and policies.  Underlining the urgent need for de-escalation, he called for continuing efforts to restore the historic status quo at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.  The protection of human life was equally urgent, he stressed, deploring the killing and injury of all innocent civilians.  Israel must be held accountable for its negligence and violations, he said, adding that the occupying Power could not continue to be absolved of its legal obligations.

The Palestinian people mourned the loss of five young people brutally killed by the occupying forces last week, and prayed for the recovery of more than 1,000 peaceful demonstrators who had been injured, he said.  Underlining the need to remember that the Palestinians were unarmed and defenceless, he described conditions in the Gaza Strip as “unliveable for humans”, appealing for immediate action to save Palestinian civilians there and avert another explosive crisis.  The State of Palestine rejected the notion that a just peace recognizing the legitimate national aspirations and rights of the Palestinian people was impossible, and in fact, “anti-Israel”.  Peace was possible, he affirmed, not by negating the rights of the Palestinian people, but rather by ending the Israeli occupation, securing Palestinian rights and ensuring a just solution for Palestinian refugees.

DANNY DANON (Israel), graphically describing last Friday’s murder of members of an Israeli family by a Palestinian in the West Bank, said that such terrorist attacks followed relentless incitement to violence by Palestinian officials, as well as payments to convicted terrorists and their families, the naming of schools and monuments for them and the celebration of horrific events.  “This incitement, this culture of hate, this glorification of terror must end now,” he emphasized.  Israel’s top priority was to maintain the safety and security of all Temple Mount worshipers and visitors while the Palestinians’ top priority was to ignite violence, he added.

Recalling the carnage wrought by the suicide bombing of a Haifa restaurant in 2003, he announced the presence of a victim who had lost many family members and had been blinded.  The bomber’s family had received tens of thousands of dollars, he said, adding that her accomplices had been paid more than $500,000 and she herself had been awarded top Palestinian honours.  Citing the words of President Abbas on his determination to continue such payments, he also quoted figures to show that they made up nearly 7 per cent of the Palestinian Authority’s budget, while education received as little as 1 per cent.

Israelis valued human rights, taught democracy, empowered minorities and protected the rights of Muslims, Christians and Jews to pray at their holy sites, he said.  They wished to live in peace with their neighbours while the Palestinians continued to oppose negotiations.  Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority had also mastered the art of deceit and the international community had fallen for it, he said.  Convicted terrorists were called “political prisoners” and almost 30 per cent of foreign aid was used to bankroll terror.  Israel could not accept that any longer, he emphasized.  The Security Council must work to end “this vulgar exploitation of international aid”, hold the Palestinians accountable and ensure that their children were taught to seek peace.  Only then would real peace be possible in the region.

NIKKI HALEY (United States) urged all parties to reduce tensions, and ensure access and security at the holy sites.  Many obsessed over Israel while the real threat was Iran, a country dedicated to destroying Israel and to supporting Hizbullah, she said.  Just because members of a terrorist group held elected office, did not make it any less of a terrorist group, she said, pointing out that United Nations resolutions called for Hizbullah to disarm without result.  The group’s weapons build-up was endangering the people of Lebanon, she said, adding that it was absurd that the Council avoided saying the name “Hizbullah” while it focused on Israel.  Reports showed that the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) had not taken appropriate action in respect of Hizbullah, she noted.  While issues in the region were complex, the United States expected leaders to know the difference between right and wrong, and that Hizbullah was an obstacle to peace, she emphasized.

MUKHTAR TILEUBERDI (Kazakhstan) affirmed his country’s concern over the growing threat of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, the ongoing construction of settlements and the deterioration of the Palestinian humanitarian situation.  As a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Kazakhstan urged the Government of Israel to lift restrictions on worshippers in Jerusalem, he said, emphasizing that all acts of violence should end.  The parties should refrain from actions that could lead to further escalation, he and both sides must create an atmosphere conducive to negotiations on a two-State solution.  He also called upon all stakeholders to work for a political solution in Syria, for international support to the Government of Iraq following the liberation of Mosul, and for greater assistance for Lebanon’s hosting of refugees.  He expressed particular concern at the humanitarian situation in Yemen, calling for decisive measures to prevent the spread of cholera by ensuring full humanitarian access, as enshrined in international law.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), noting that the conflict would not resolve itself on its own, emphasized that any worsening of the situation carried with it a risk of uncontrolled escalation across the region.  He voiced hope that recent positive steps would ease tensions and reiterated a call for the greatest restraint to prevent events from devolving into a religious conflict.  Turning to Gaza, he said residents lived on a few hours of electricity daily, which was paralysing living conditions.  Israel must shoulder its responsibilities as the occupying Power and the Palestinians must work to reach a reconciliation agreement.  It was critical to return to negotiations.  Yet, settlement activities were threatening that process.  Economic developments and security arrangements only made sense with negotiations on the horizon, he said, underscoring that sacrifices were required by all sides and calling on parties to return to the negotiations table.

PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDÁN (Bolivia) said Israel and Palestine had the right to live as free and independent States.  Condemning the recent violence, he said Israel had taken recent steps that had exacerbated the situation and violated international law, including erecting metal detectors and fences around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.  Calling on parties to refrain from taking any action that would further worsen tensions, he said it was vital that no stone be left unturned to avoid any escalation of violence.  Council members must ensure the implementation of resolution 2334 (2016); the only long-term goal was to ensure the realization of a two-State solution.

FODÉ SECK (Senegal) called on the parties to reduce tensions, noting recent meetings that were addressing related issues.  At the forum of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People’s marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Arab-Israeli war, a call had been made for the Council to work tirelessly to uphold the two-State solution.  Meanwhile, the socioeconomic situation in Gaza was a ticking time bomb, requiring urgent attention, including addressing shortages of electricity, water and sanitation.  Calling on Palestinian leaders to resolve differences, he said they should focus on improving conditions in Gaza while the international community worked towards bolstering economic development.  He expressed hope that recent United States-led discussions would lead to progress.

VLADIMIR SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation) said a solution to the issues plaguing Jerusalem must hinge on General Assembly and Security Council resolutions.  The parties must refrain from any action that predetermined Jerusalem’s status and must maintain calm.  Cooperation between Israel and Jordan, which bore a specific and significant role in the management of Muslim sites, was of great importance.  The destabilizing factors had not been addressed, but rather had worsened, including ongoing settlement activities and heightened, provocative rhetoric from both sides.  The situation in Gaza required specific attention, including the dire humanitarian situation there, he said, voicing support for the mediation efforts of the parties, including those undertaken by Egypt.  A solution could be found for a genuine settlement based on direct talks.  He reaffirmed his country’s willingness to host a meeting in Moscow between President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, adding that there was no alternative to the two-State solution.  The Middle East and North Africa remained in tumult and the recent activities in the Palestinian territories only made the situation worse.  Steps must be taken to strip terrorists of any access to chemical weapons and measures must be undertaken towards a political settlement and the restoration of stability and peace to the region.

CARL SKAU (Sweden), associating himself with the statement to be delivered by the European Union, expressed hope that Israel’s recent decision to remove the metal detectors by the entrances of the Holy Esplanade, a key Palestinian demand, was a step towards de-escalation.  “Jerusalem is home to three religions,” he continued, voicing concern over the recent Israeli announcement of the issuing of building permits for 1,500 new settlement units in East Jerusalem.  Not only was that a flagrant violation of international law, but such settlements were also a major obstacle to peace and would render the two-State solution impossible.  He condemned the 14 July attack in the Old City of Jerusalem and welcomed its swift condemnation by President Abbas.  As well, the situation in Gaza was “extremely worrying”.  Palestinians living there should not be paying the price for the long‑lasting crisis.  Yet, they continued to suffer from a lack of basic essentials such as water and sanitation.  He also highlighted the important role of the United States in efforts to advance peace in the Middle East.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia), while expressing concern over the recent violence in Jerusalem, said he was pleased that all concerned parties seemed to have played their relevant roles in reducing the prevailing tensions.  It was evident that, unless the underlying problems were peacefully resolved, those tensions would happen again and again, and perhaps move to the “point of no return”.  There was no other viable option other than the two-State solution, he stressed, adding that it was unfortunate that the recent outbreak of violence in Jerusalem overshadowed other recent progress aimed at addressing the long-standing crisis between the Palestinians and Israelis.  Although Ethiopia supported Israel’s right to defend itself, it also supported the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and the right of Palestine to exist as a free and independent State.  The parties should show the flexibility to engage in direct and meaningful negotiations to find a solution, although the Council should also do its part to support the parties to move in that direction.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said his country would continue to support a two-State solution based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, thus achieving peaceful coexistence of a viable Palestinian State and Israel with secure and recognized borders.  The final status of Jerusalem must be resolved through negotiations based on the assumption that it would be the future capital of both sides.  Settlement activities were in violation of international law and Israel must freeze all such activities.  Underscoring that reconciliation among Palestinians was an important element in promoting peace, he also expressed concern over the deepening divide between the West Bank and Gaza.  Fatah and Hamas must find a way to alleviate Palestinian suffering.  While the international community continued to play an important role, it was political will that would relaunch negotiations and rein in obstacles to peace.

INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy), mourning the loss of life due to the recent violence and reaffirming the right to peaceful demonstrations, emphasized that the decision by the Israeli Government to remove the metal detectors was in the right direction.  It was also important to maintain security cooperation between Israel and Palestine.  The situation in Gaza deserved the utmost attention, he said, citing a recent report from the United Nations country team documenting the alarming lack of development in the Gaza Strip in the last decade.  Nevertheless, there had been some positive progress, including the recent agreements on electricity and water that the parties had signed.  Turning to Lebanon, he highlighted the essential work being carried out by UNIFIL, while reiterating his country’s full support to the Lebanese authorities and their full implementation of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1701 (2006).  In addition, the recent liberation of Mosul from Da’esh was a sign of hope in an area that was otherwise grappling with multiple crises.

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) lamented that the years continued to roll by with the situation in the Middle East going unchanged, and in some cases actually worsening.  The peoples of that region wanted nothing more than to live in peace, far from the horrors of war, terror and violations of their human rights.  Yet they had suffered from occupation, terrorism and successive regimes whose objectives were far removed from the wishes of the people.  He stressed the need for unfettered access to places of worship, and in that regard, he expressed satisfaction with Israel’s decision to the remove the metal detectors.  He also expressed concern that the situation in Yemen was not receiving its due attention by the Council, and in regards to Syria, that the political progress that had been made was not reflected in terms of humanitarian access.

VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said the escalation of tensions and violence in Jerusalem reflected the gravity of the situation in and around the Old City, as well as in the wider context of the Middle East peace process.  Unless swift and effective measures were taken by both sides, the recent deadly incidents could ignite further violence.  Turning to Syria, he stressed his dissatisfaction with the slow progress on the political track.  The intra-Syrian talks in Geneva needed to be firmly entrenched in resolution 2254 (2015) and steered towards the previously agreed common agenda points related to governance, the Constitution, elections and counter-terrorism.  On Yemen, he voiced deep concern by the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation, which was going from bad to worse, and highlighted the cholera epidemic which was pushing the country’s population to the brink of survival.

NAWAF AWAD (Egypt) said dangerous events in and beyond Jerusalem were exacerbating the situation of the entire Muslim world.  Calling upon Israel to end the violence and restrictive security at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, he urged all sides to refrain from measures that would provoke religious tensions, increase the suffering of the Palestinian people, and harm the prospects for lasting peace.  Resolution 478 (1980) reaffirmed that all legal and administrative measures taken by Israel, the occupying Power, were null and void and should be reversed, he said, noting that resolution 2334 (2016) recognized that there could be no change in the 1967 borders line except through negotiations.  If the present crisis persisted, it would not be limited to Israel and Palestine, he warned, emphasizing that the occupation continued to undermine Palestinian hopes.

He went on to underline that Israel’s settlement-expansion and other activities contravened Council resolutions and had caused great frustration over the course of years of occupation.  The resolutions must be implemented so both sides could enjoy good-neighbourly relations with all other States in the region, he emphasized.  Egypt was committed to working with Israel and Palestine towards a just solution, he said, adding that reaching a settlement was a basic premise for the attainment of peace and security in the Middle East.  Reaffirming that efforts towards relaunching negotiations and ending the divisions among Palestinians would continue, he said Arab countries had committed themselves to a land-for-peace solution, and a recent summit in Amman, Jordan, had reiterated that approach.

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said that after generations of hostility, there was determination to end the bloodshed.  The anniversary of the 1967 war was a reminder desperately needed hope.  Condemning the recent killings, he welcomed the engagement of all parties in efforts to de-escalate tensions.  However, other challenges to peace persisted, including the deteriorating situation in Gaza, he noted.  Hamas must renounce violence, accept Israel and honour signed agreements, he said, asking those with influence to encourage the group to take those steps.  Condemning new plans to build settlements in Jerusalem as illegal, he said such actions made a two-State solution harder to achieve.

LIU JIEYI (China), Council President for July, spoke in his national capacity, describing the question of Palestine as both the source of problems in the region, as well as a gauge of international fairness and justice.  The international community must address the root causes of the crisis, he said, adding that firm efforts to advance peace must support the two-State solution.  The parties must base their efforts upon United Nations resolutions and Arab peace initiatives, he said, expressing support for the creation of the State of Palestine.  Israel and Palestine must work together, he said, calling for implementation of resolution 2334 (2016) and an immediate halt to all settlement activities.  Great attention must be paid to development for peace, with a view to promoting cooperation in strengthening the benefits of peace for all parties.  China proposed a tripartite effort, alongside Israel and Palestine, to promote progress and achieve a breakthrough, he said, emphasizing that the international community must do its part to calm tensions.  Relevant resolutions must be implemented, he added.

CAROLINE ZIADE (Lebanon) said the latest killings, closures and disproportionate use of force against civilians showed the extent of Israel’s shocking practices in East Jerusalem, a clear attempt to escalate the occupation into a religious war.  Its practices constituted a clear violation of international law and were part of an effort to make the two-State solution impossible, she said, emphasizing that it was high time the international community upheld its principles and implemented the Arab Peace Initiative.

She went on to maintain that Israel continued to violate resolution 1701 (2006), as well as her country’s sovereignty, on a daily basis, yet Lebanon nevertheless pledged its full commitment to upholding that resolution.  In that context, she once again called for progress towards a resolution of the disputed maritime border and exclusive economic zone between Lebanon and Israel, and for another renewal of UNIFIL’s mandate, without changes.  Citing efforts by the Government of Lebanon to call attention to challenges confronting the country and to promote assistance for its role in hosting refugees, and in fighting terrorism, she underlined Lebanon’s importance as a model for the region.

SIMA SAMI BAHOUS (Jordan) said the most dangerous situation was the one taking place in the Middle East, were events at Al-Haram al-Sharif risked exacerbating the Israeli-Palestinian crisis and could potentially be exploited by terrorists to justify their own activities.  Possible repercussions could plunge the region into a religious war, she warned, emphasizing that, to address those tensions, Israel must allow worshippers full access to the site.  The international community must shoulder its responsibility and put an end to the tensions by ensuring respect for the status quo of the holy sites and by compelling Israel to uphold its responsibilities as the occupying Power.  The Security Council must prevent the situation from spiralling out of control, by tackling the deep-rooted causes of tensions, she added.

Jordan was working, with the close cooperation of its partners, to ensure that the holy sites were fully accessible, she said, reiterating its call for an emergency ministerial meeting to address that issue.  Recent events would in no way reduce Jordan’s determination to address broader issues in the Middle East or the country’s tireless efforts to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she emphasized.  It was also important to end the conflict in Syria, which could only be achieved through political means, she said, while also calling upon the international community to take the necessary steps to end the crisis in Yemen.  However, the Palestinian issue remained the core challenge in the Middle East, and was the key to unlocking other crises evident in the region.

FREDERICO S. DUQUE ESTRADA MEYER (Brazil) emphasized the vital role played by UNIFIL, including its Maritime Task Force, which Brazil had had the honour and responsibility to lead for more than six years.  The Task Force had successfully performed key security and humanitarian tasks, including those relating to the apprehension of arms, ammunition and illegal drugs.  It had also rescued migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean Sea, he added.  On the question of Palestine, he said the recent electricity crisis in Gaza was yet another reminder of the occupation’s severe social, economic and humanitarian consequences.  A two-State settlement was the only just and acceptable solution to the conflict, he said.  Turning to Syria, he said recent developments there still demanded the Council’s attention.  As for Iraq, challenges remained in ensuring the safe and dignified return of displaced persons and extending State authority and the rule of law in liberated areas of Iraq.

NABEEL MUNIR (Pakistan) said that the spiralling violence, looming humanitarian catastrophe, untold pain and human suffering was surely not sustainable.  Israel must take immediate steps not only to defuse the situation, but also desist from taking any provocative measures in the future.  A viable, independent and contiguous State of Palestine on the basis of the internationally agreed parameters, the pre-1967 borders and Al-Quds al-Sharif as its capital, remained the only sustainable guarantee for enduring peace in the Middle East.  Illegal Israeli settlements were emblematic of the blatant Israeli disregard of international law and collective will of the international community.  He said that the suffocating Israeli blockade of Gaza was not only a humanitarian tragedy, but a moral outrage.  A just solution for Palestine was not just a matter of regional significance; it was a primary precondition for global peace.  The fight against violent extremism in the Middle East remained long-drawn and protracted.  That and other regional challenges had been compounded of years of wars and foreign occupations.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) appealed to both parties to keep the tensions on the ground from escalating.  He reiterated support for the two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict along with related international initiatives.  While affirming Israel’s right to protect its people, he also stressed the importance of compliance with Security Council resolutions that called for the end of settlement expansion.  Given the growing tension, it was urgent to move the peace process forward.  Therefore, he supported creation of an effective framework for that purpose, he said.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said that priority should be placed on overcoming the differences between the parties so that negotiations could resume.  Reaffirming support for a two-State solution, he called for a halt for settlement expansion, an end to terrorist acts, a mutually agreed solution to the status of Jerusalem and guaranteed access for all religions to sacred sites.  In light of recent violence, he also called for both parties to refrain from taking unilateral actions that affected the status quo.  Turning to the region at large, he voiced support for initiatives towards a political settlement in Syria, welcomed the liberation of Mosul in Iraq and expressed hope that all parties on the Gulf would resolve their differences peacefully.

ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran), associating himself with the statement to be delivered by the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands was central to all conflicts in the Middle East.  Emboldened by the support of the new Administration of the United States, the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to their homelands was being questioned and challenged by the Israeli authorities more than ever before.  The aggression continued on a daily basis, the latest brutal crackdown being done under the pretext of preventing the Palestinian worshippers from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque.  The fast-growing illegal settlements in the Palestinian territory constituted not only a grave breach of the fourth Geneva Convention, but also a war crime.  World Powers, especially the United States, were undermining the counter-terrorism efforts they claimed to champion, while also bombing Syria and Yemen and preventing the delivery of humanitarian aid.  Iran had always supported efforts toward a diplomatic outcome in the Syrian conflict, he stated, and its assistance to the Syrian Government was geared towards counter-terrorism and de-escalation.

JOANNE ADAMSON, European Union, said the bloc’s position had not changed:  there was no alternative to a negotiated two-State solution.  The latest developments in and around the Old City of Jerusalem and in the West Bank posed a real risk of further escalation, she cautioned.  It was vital that all political, religious and community leaders act responsibly and avoid any steps or rhetoric that could further increase tensions, she said, underlining the crucial need for continued cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in preventing further violence and loss of life.  While proposing that Israel and Jordan work together to ensure security and ensure respect for the sanctity of holy sites, she opposed Israel’s recent decision to proceed with plans for thousands of settlement units in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.  “The [European Union] will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties,” she underlined.

Expressing concern over the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza, she said that a single, legitimate and democratic Palestinian Authority, with full control over the enclave, was critical to the creation of a viable Palestinian State.  All parties must take swift action to address the plight of Gaza’s people.  Turning to Lebanon, she said the conduct of fair and peaceful parliamentary elections remained essential to ensuring the functioning of democratic Lebanese institutions.  As for Syria, she reiterated calls for full and unhindered humanitarian access, and for accountability in all cases of human rights violations, stressing:  “Impunity is not an option.”  She described the liberation of Mosul, in Iraq, as a highly symbolic step in the defeat of Da’esh.  Reconciliation within Iraqi society would require the building of trust among neighbours and local communities.

GÜVEN BEGEÇ (Turkey) emphasized that the recent developments in Jerusalem should serve as a reminder that the Israeli-Palestine conflict remained the core challenge to lasting regional and global peace.  Attempts to change the status quo of the historical status and sanctity of Al-Haram al-Sharif would jeopardize peaceful coexistence.  The closure of the compound, followed by the decision to place metal detectors at its entrances and the placement of restrictions on the entry of Muslims, was unacceptable.  The return to the status quo was essential and a matter of freedom of religion and worship.  To reach a lasting peace, it was also important for the Palestinians to voice their legitimate demands in unity.  Fully aware of the dire humanitarian situation in Palestine, especially in Gaza, Turkey was continuing its contributions to development assistance and reconstruction projects.  Turning to Syria, he highlighted that the significant reduction of violence on the ground had created an environment conducive to holding the last three rounds of Geneva talks.  Only a multidimensional strategy could achieve the dual objectives of eliminating terrorism and stabilizing Syria.

LINDA SCOTT (Namibia), associating herself with the statement to be delivered behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that five decades of occupation had resulted in ongoing violence in seemingly unending cycles.  It was deeply concerning that the status of holy sites in Jerusalem was not being respected. Consequently, tensions seemed to be steadily increasing.  The continued tensions also seemed to be causing dangerous, global polarization, as well as violent extremism.  She urged all parties in the Middle East to work with seriousness to silence the war drums.  She also called on the Israeli Government to end their ongoing punitive destruction of Palestinian homes and infrastructure and to cease their illegal construction of settlements on occupied territory.  Her country stood with the people of Palestine in their determined efforts in the pursuit of their inalienable right to self-determination, justice, freedom and independence through political, diplomatic, peaceful and non-violent means.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia), associating himself with the statement to be delivered by the Non-Aligned Movement, said that any attack on Al-Aqsa Mosque should be considered a “very dangerous red line”.  The mosque’s closure had not only worsened the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, it also signalled to the world how strongly Israel wished to distance itself from the two‑State solution.  The closure of Al-Aqsa constituted a blatant move of Israel in its continuing effort to alter the geographic and demographic character of Jerusalem.  The international community must push back on any attempts to do so.  Continuous efforts to curtail and hamper the ability of worshippers to enter the mosque were contrary to the basic tenets of decency.  Such acts had also created more mistrust and led to further animosity and extremism, he said, calling on all sides to make every effort to reduce tensions, restore calm and end the crisis.  If needed, the international community could explore the possibility of ensuring the mosque of Al-Aqsa remained under United Nations international protections to ensure that all worshippers could conduct their religious activities.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH A ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), associating himself with the statements to be delivered by the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, called Israeli security measures arbitrary and illegal.  He roundly condemned all Israeli breaches of international agreements and rejected all attempts to what he called the “Judaization” of Jerusalem.  The Council must face up to Israel’s criminal actions in that city.  Israel must remove the difficulties and obstacles it had placed on worshippers and preserve the status quo.  In addition, the Council must protect the Palestinian people, who were suffering from terrorist attacks from settlers and from measures to change the facts on the ground.  Peace must be based on ending the occupation and implementing the Arab Peace Agreement.  He called on the international community to implement all previous agreements, particularly those related to “land-grabbing”, as well as to the occupation itself.

SIMON KASSAS, observer for the Holy See, urged that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process remain a top priority of the Council, reiterating his support for the two-State solution through direct negotiations, and firm and even-handed assistance from the international community.  For that to happen, both parties must agree on substantial steps to lower tensions on the ground and refrain from counterproductive actions.  Palestinian unity was also necessary.  Turning to Syria, Yemen and Iraq, he called for renewed commitment to a political solution to halt the loss of life and property.  Noting that Christian communities had coexisted peacefully with others for over 2,000 years in the region, he urged the international community not to forget them and uphold the principles of equality before the law for all.  Jerusalem must be maintained as a city sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims through a negotiated and internationally guaranteed special status that ensured access to the holy places.  He appealed to the Council to act urgently on its obligations to restore hope in the possibility of peace and make that peace a reality.

MAHLATSE MMINELE (South Africa), associating himself with the statement to be delivered by the Non-Aligned Movement, noted that the people of Palestine looked to the United Nations, particularly the Security Council, to help them realize their right to self-determination.  It had become clear that the conflict between Palestine and Israel fed into the wider regional dynamics by having a negative effect on peace, economic development, sociopolitical progression and security.  The opportunities for a two-State solution were being eroded, as the ongoing Israeli settlement activity became a fundamental obstacle to a return to negotiations and a grave threat to the very existence of a future Palestinian state, as well as a safe and secure Israel. 

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) said that the closure of the Al-Haram al-Sharif complex and the different obstacles that had been placed in front of worshippers impeded the ability to solve the Palestinian question.  The international community must address any attempt to undermine the status quo and should take its responsibilities seriously in the face of such violations, which were a provocation and served the purposes of terrorists and extremists around the world.  As well, Qatar had spared no effort to find a fair and sustainable solution to the situation in Syria, and had made great efforts in terms of political and humanitarian support.  Nevertheless, the suffering of the Syrian people continued, many of whom had already paid a high price for the situation in the country.  She noted that, although her country was facing unilateral measures from certain other parties in the region, it would continue with strict compliance with the principles of good neighbourliness to strengthen peace and stability in the region and around the world.

MARIA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO (Nicaragua), Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said that the question of Palestine was the longest-standing item on the United Nations agenda.  She outlined the Committee’s events and meetings, including the holding of the United Nations Forum to Mark Fifty Years of Occupation held last month.  While the views expressed during that meeting were diverse, consensus among participants remained clear:  the occupation was illegal and needed to end.  The Committee had repeatedly stressed the illegality of the blockade of the Gaza Strip as it amounted to collective punishment and had resulted in one of the worst humanitarian crises.  The Committee had also constantly pronounced itself on the illegality of Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  The recent announcements by the Israeli Government of an additional 4,000 settlement housing units pointed to a complete lack of accountability and progress.

BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) reaffirmed the rights of Palestinian people to their territory, including the return of refugees.  Given the tensions around the Holy Sites, the Security Council should go beyond its condemnations and fully take up its responsibilities to end the occupation.  He voiced his objections to the Special Coordinator’s omission of what he called the racist Israeli occupation of Syrian territory, where the population was deprived of their resources and their nationality rights.  He also stated his objections to what he called the Coordinator’s attempt to justify Israeli attacks on the Syrian Arab Army.

The Israeli army, he went on to say, facilitated illegal Israeli practices and had targeted Syrian bases far from the Golan, impeding his country’s fight against terrorism.  In that context, he reiterated assertions that many Member States were supporting terrorism in Syria.  The Golan remained Syrian territory; Syria’s sovereignty there was non-negotiable.  He called on the Council to immediately apply pressure to free prisoners from unjust imprisonment by Israel and take on its responsibility to end the injustice of the Israeli occupation.

ROLANDO CASTRO CORDOBA (Costa Rica) reiterated the urgency of resuming negotiations on the central issues of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, based on obligations that were taken on in previous agreements.  Both sides must refrain from unilateral actions that could worsen the already volatile situation.  The international community must create a new architecture of peace to resolve issues, he said, pointing out that, after 50 years, the United Nations had failed to find a solution to one of the most widely discussion issues since the formation of the Organization.  The world could no longer overlook the agony of the millions of people who had fallen victim to this political and military struggle.  The United Nations must play its role as the epicentre of global governance.  Military options were not solutions; peace must be built using the tools of diplomacy and multilateralism.

KENNEDY MAYONG ONON (Malaysia), associating himself with the statements to be delivered by the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said the violent clashes between the Israeli security forces and Palestinians on 21 July were deplorable and condemned in the strongest terms the closure of Al-Aqsa Mosque.  Israel must refrain from any action that would alter the status of the Islamic holy sites and must provide unrestricted access for Muslim worshippers to the mosque.  Furthermore, Israel must stop any action that would change the status quo of the Islamic holy sites.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), associating himself with the statements to be delivered by the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said that the continued breaches of international humanitarian law and systemic human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories had given rise to an egregious culture of impunity.  The Council had a moral obligation to prevail upon Israel to immediately halt its illegal settlement regime, lift the blockade in the Gaza Strip and put an end to all forms of occupation.  Bangladesh remained steadfast in its support for the just and legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people for their inalienable rights, he said, adding that all actors must remain seized with their efforts to pursue a comprehensive solution to the Palestinian question.

ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia) condemned a number of Israeli actions in Jerusalem, noting that under Muslim Arab rule all worshippers had been treated with respect.  However, under Israeli occupation, an attack on worshippers had been committed by an Israeli settler and reports had shown Israelis kicking worshippers who were praying.  Such actions had demonstrated the doctrine of Israeli occupation, that of terrorizing Palestinians.  Condemning all terrorist acts and all States that incited or supported terrorism, he said the Security Council must take necessary measures and uphold its responsibility to stop such Israeli practices.  The danger posed by an escalation of violence could reach the entire region and beyond.  The most dangerous aspect of the conflict was the actions of Israel, which was distorting Jerusalem’s identity.  All States must commit to all resolutions in that regard and support the Arab initiative, which had a timeline for ending the occupation and establishing a Palestinian State.  Turning to Syria, he said the international community must continue to stand firmly against all killing and acts of besieging towns.

ANAYANSI RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba) said it was time to show solidarity with the Palestinians and take concrete action.  The Council must adopt specific measures to end the occupation and the crisis.  A two-State solution and a lasting settlement of the Palestinian question were impossible if Israel continued to violate international law.  Calling for an end to the occupation of the Syrian Golan, she said any action taken to alter the status or demographics were in violation of international law, international agreements, the United Nations Charter and the fourth Geneva Convention.  Cuba would continue to support the right of self-determination for the Palestinian people, she said, urging that, after a decade of Gaza blockades, the Council should take up its responsibility.

BAKHTIYOR IBRAGIMOV (Uzbekistan), speaking for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, condemned all illegal policies and measures being perpetrated in the Occupied Palestinian Territory by Israel.  The occupying Power aimed at altering the status, character and demography of the area, including the Arab, Islamic and Palestinian character of Al-Haram al-Sharif and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.  He condemned, in particular, the closing of the mosque and further impediments to Muslim worshippers.  The Council must compel Israel to guarantee freedom of worship for Palestinians and refrain from interfering in the affairs of the Muslim and Christian holy places.

He reiterated the Organization’s firm commitment to the rights of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, as well as its condemnation of settlement expansion.  There must also be a timed, multilateral political process leading to the end of the occupation and the achievement of the two-State solution.  He reminded the Council of its obligations in respect to what he called Israel’s “condemnable, systematic violations of human rights” in the occupied territories, including resolving the plight of Palestinian prisoners, as well as ending suffering in Gaza and elsewhere.  He also encouraged all Member States to intensify their efforts to relieve the financial shortfalls of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  More so, the Security Council must effectively and thoroughly address the multifaceted dimension and root causes of all the region’s conflicts in the context of international law and the Charter.

MOHAMMED ATLASSI (Morocco) said that the peace process had been paralysed since 2014 as Israel continued to expand its illegal territories.  “Palestinians feel like the international community has abandoned them,” he said.  Such policies could not lead to peace, adding that he remained optimistic about the new United States Administration in achieving peace in the Middle East.  The process must restart on the basis of the two-State solution within the pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.  There should be no doubt that Jerusalem had a special place in the heart of worshippers of the three Abrahamic religions.  Jerusalem was the third holy city for all Muslims, and changing its status quo would only lead to violence.  He called for the rights of the Palestinian people to be respected and for an end of illegal settlements activities, as outlined in Council resolution 2334 (2016).

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the Israeli conflict continued to be a serious threat to international peace and security, and he called for a reinvigoration of international and regional efforts to resolve the matter.  A solution must be founded on achieving a State based on pre-1967 borders.  He also reiterated the importance of presenting a substantive written report of the Secretary-General especially in light of continued indifference demonstrated by Israel of the Council and its resolutions.  Israel continued to consolidate its occupation, having recently announced the issuance of permits for additional illegal settlements.  Instead of showing their commitment to a two-State solution, Israel continued to act in contempt of the Council.

Highlighting the recent provocative decision by Israel to continue with settlements activities in serious violation of international law, he condemned Israel’s flagrant contempt for Council resolution 2334 (2016) and called upon Israel to immediately cease its settlement activities.  As well, the humanitarian situation in Gaza was unsustainable.  The ongoing obstruction of reconstruction of housing that was destroyed as a result of Israel’s 2014 aggression had caused thousands of families to remain homeless.  Lack of electricity had led to serious social and economic consequences for the Palestinian people.  Also deplorable were Israel’s violent military incursions, the imprisonment of Palestinians and the demolition of Palestinian homes.  He reiterated the Movement’s appeal to step up international efforts to end the Israeli occupation and find a just and lasting solution.  He also condemned acts of aggression by Israel against Syria and any Israeli policy to alter the status quo of the Syrian Golan.

CHARLES T. NTWAAGAE (Botswana), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed deep concern over tensions in and around Jerusalem, condemning all acts of terror.  It is urgent that the international community to address the lack of progress and deterioration of the situation after 50 years of occupation.  He condemned both ongoing violence and continued settlement activity and welcomed international initiatives to revive the peace process.  A stable and peaceful Middle East, with two States living side by side in harmony, would provide an environment conducive for prosperity and peace in the greater region.  Reaffirming solidarity with the Palestinian people, he pledged his country’s continued resolve to help find a lasting solution that improved quality of life for people in the region.

TIJJANI MUHAMMAD-BANDE (Nigeria) said Security Council members must use their influence with both sides to encourage them to de-escalate tensions.  Recent developments must not obscure the underlying problem in the conflict — the lack of progress in the Middle East peace process.  Urging both parties to return to negotiations, he said a departure from the current crisis and revival of the peace process was hardly achievable without ending the policy of settlement expansion on occupied territories.  Specific actions must foster mutual respect and compromise, build confidence and pave the way for the realization of a two-State solution.  Israel must freeze all settlement activities and Palestinian leaders must signal their readiness to return to the negotiating table by making efforts to forge unity and deal with militancy and other internal security challenges.  The current stalemate was neither ideal nor sustainable and both sides must take concrete steps to return to negotiations.

NIKULAS HANNIGAN (Iceland), expressing deep concern for the rising tensions over Jerusalem’s holy sites, said he was encouraged by the Israeli decision to remove metal detectors.  Leaders on both sides had the responsibility to further reduce tensions with the assistance of Jordan and religious leaders.  Confidence that Israel was not attempting to alter the status quo must be restored.  In addition, the Palestinian leadership must condemn all terrorist attacks and do its utmost to prevent violence.  To keep the two-State solution viable, attacks by Palestinians must cease and settlement activity must end.  Regular reporting on the situation under resolution 2334 (2016) was essential to help bring about the necessary negotiated peace.

NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that half a century of occupation was a tragedy for all sides, and he called on Israel to cease settlement activities, end the closure of the Gaza Strip, respect the status quo of the holy sites and step up efforts to improve conditions for Palestinians.  As well, all parties should end incitement, allow humanitarian access, exercise self-restraint, comply with international law and take immediate, concrete action to resume peace talks.  He reaffirmed unconditional support for Palestinian struggle for fundamental rights, particularly self-determination, and welcomed international initiatives to bring about a two-State solution and facilitate Palestinian economic development.  He pledged his country’s continued cooperation with such meaningful collective endeavours.

JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI (Bahrain) condemned Israeli practices preventing Muslim worshippers from accessing Al-Aqsa Mosque, which was another attempt to change status quo arrangements.  Calling on all parties to demonstrate restraint, he said the Council must do its part in ending such practices and ensuring all relevant laws and resolutions were respected.  A fair and sustainable peace depended on the Palestinian people’s ability to recover their rights to establish a State and to end the occupation of its territories.  The Palestinian question remained a great concern, he said, expressing hope for progress towards a two-State solution.

MOHAMMED BESSEDIK (Algeria) condemned all violations of international law, including actions against worshippers in Jerusalem and the destruction of homes.  The occupying Power was indeed violating many laws with impunity, he said, emphasizing that the international community must do its utmost to end the commission of those crimes.  Expressing support for the creation of an independent State of Palestine, he said the international community must address ongoing attempts to change the identity of Jerusalem and its holy sites.  Given recent developments, international peace and security were at stake.

AHMED ABDELRAHMAN AHMED ALMAHMOUD (United Arab Emirates) said that he was particularly alarmed by Israel’s continued aggression towards the holy sites in Jerusalem and the measures that it had taken to change the status quo in the city.  The international community must engage to de-escalate the tension and urge Israel, the occupying Power, to honour its legal and international commitments and end its unilateral actions.  Israel’s illegal settlement activities and other provocative measures continued to pose major obstacles to achieving a two-State solution that would grant the Palestinian people their inalienable rights.  The paramount aim of the United Aram Emirates was the promotion of security and stability in the region.  The situation in the occupied territories paved the way for extremist groups to spread their messages of terrorism and violent extremism and prey upon populations with their destructive agenda throughout the Middle East.

AMJAD QASSEM AGHA (Syria), taking the floor for a second time, responded to comments made by his counterpart from Saudi Arabia, a country that supported religious extremism to spread Wahhabism.  Saudi Arabia and others who had supported terrorism in Syria and around the world would eventually be held accountable.

HADAS ESTER MEITZAD (Israel) said it was unfortunate that some delegates had made inflammatory statements against her country, and she reiterated Israel’s support for status quo arrangements in Jerusalem.  In addition, Lebanon’s representative, who had spoken about human rights, should read a recent report on that issue.  She also pointed out that Iran continued to develop a ballistic missiles programme and had made threats.  As well, Syria’s delegate had, on several occasions, claimed his Government had never used chemical weapons against civilians when that clearly was not the case.

Mr. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia) said that, when he heard the statement by Syria's delegate, he felt like laughing.  Saudi Arabia was not using chemical weapons against its people, which was what the Syrian Government was doing.  Syria was simply trying to meddle in the affairs of the Gulf States.

For information media. Not an official record.