14 AUGUST 2020

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

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**Israel and United Arab Emirates

In a statement we issued yesterday on the joint statement issued by the US President Donald J. Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, [suspending] Israeli annexation plans over parts of the occupied West Bank — this is something the Secretary-General has consistently called for.  Annexation would effectively close the door for a renewal of negotiations and destroy the prospect of a viable Palestinian State and the two-State solution.  The Secretary-General welcomes this agreement and hopes it will create an opportunity for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to re-engage in meaningful negotiations that will realize a two-State solution in line with relevant UN resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements.

Peace in the Middle East is more important than ever as the region confronts the grave threats posed by COVID-19 and radicalization.  The Secretary-General will continue to work with all sides to open further possibilities for dialogue, peace and stability.

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**Questions and Answers

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Ibtisam, please, go ahead, then Alan.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  So, I want to go back to the statement that you read about the United Arab Emirates and Israel agreement.  So, you are welcoming… in your statement, you welcome the claim of suspending annexation when, as a matter of fact, Netanyahu himself said that the full plan is still on the table.  And… but, more importantly, facts on the ground show that confiscation of Palestinian land, building of settlements, etc., is just going nonstop.

So, my question to you is, why are you supporting the occupation, if you want, and issuing such a statement and ignoring the facts on the ground?

Spokesman:  Listen, I think your… let me just put it this way.  I don’t agree with the logic that you infer from our statement.  We are welcoming what was said that… the paper that was issued jointly by the three leaders yesterday.

For us, the suspension of an annexation is very important and something that we’ve consistently called for.  I don’t think anyone can accuse the Secretary‑General of supporting the occupation.  Whether it’s him, whether it’s Mr. [Nickolay] Mladenov, other UN… or other UN officials have consistently spoken out against annexation, unilateral moves, anything that we see that puts in jeopardy the two‑State solution and a viable Palestinian State.

So, I don’t see… I don’t think we can be accused of supporting the occupation.  What we are supporting is an opportunity that we hope will create… an opportunity for Israelis and Palestinian leaders to re‑engage in meaningful negotiations.  I mean, this has been the Secretary‑General’s message for quite some time, during his last briefing to the Council, Mr. Mladenov’s last briefing to the Council.

This was announced yesterday.  Obviously, we have to see about the implementation, but I think it’s important that all three parties focus on the implementation as outlined in the statement.

Question:  Okay.  I’m sorry.  I have a follow‑up.  Of course, I mean, you are talking about suspending, but as I said, as a matter of fact, on the ground, even your own reports by OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), in the last two weeks, at least, there were 100 Palestinians who were injured during demonstrations, peaceful demonstrations, in Turmus Ayya, a village near Ramallah, where people were demonstrating against land confiscation and settlements building.

We don’t hear from your… there are UN reports from the different organizations about these issues and other issues, but from your office, from the Secretary‑General, we don’t hear any condemnations for these issues.

And your statement talks about suspending, where, as a matter of fact, there is no suspending on the ground.  The facts on the ground show that the Israelis are doing whatever they want to do and continuing with that.

Spokesman:  We will continue…

Correspondent:  Yeah.  Sorry.

Spokesman:  Sorry.  No, I didn’t mean to interrupt.

Correspondent:  I’m done.  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Okay.  We will continue, through our regular reporting mechanisms, whether it’s OCHA, Mr. Mladenov, to report the facts as we see them on the ground, and we will continue to speak out against violations as we see them.  That… and our position has not changed.

We see this statement as an opportunity.  Let’s… we look forward to its implementation.

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For information media. Not an official record.