25 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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**Middle East

Back in New York, the Security Council held an open video teleconference on the situation in the Middle East.  Briefing was Nickolay Mladenov, our Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.  In his remarks he reiterated how the Secretary-General has welcomed the agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, saying he hopes it will create an opportunity for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to re-engage.  Mr. Mladenov noted that the deal has the potential to change dynamics across the region, creating new opportunities for cooperation at a time when the Middle East and the world face grave dangers from COVID-19, as well as radicalization.  He added that it will create new economic opportunities and opportunities for peace.  He also voiced concern over the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and in Israel.  The UN, along with our partners, have continued to support Palestinians in responding to the pandemic, including by addressing critical gaps in medical supplies and equipment.  His full remarks have been shared with you.

**United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East

And just a note from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), they tell us that they are extremely concerned about the closure of the lone power plant in Gaza since last Tuesday, 18 August with the impact it will have on health care and other sectors.

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**Questions and Answers

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Question:  Okay, okay.  Thank you, I’m sorry for that.  Well, I have a few questions on Mr. Mladenov’s briefing.  He started his speech by saying this agreement between United Arab Emirates and Israel stops the Israeli plans over part of the West Bank.  He used the word “stops”.  And he thanked Israel for its commitment not to annex part of the West Bank.  I think both, as probably everyone knows, that’s very inaccurate description of the real things in this agreement between Israel and United Arab Emirates.  It didn’t stop, and Israeli did not express commitment to not… not to annex parts of the West Bank.  Any comment on that?

Spokesman:  Well, I mean, that’s more of a commentary than a question.  Mr. Mladenov’s views represent the Secretary‑General’s views.  I’m not sure what else I can add.  I think we will have to agree to disagree on the analysis of the situation.

Question:  The second question is that he, in most of his speech, put the blame on the Palestinians.  He mentioned militant activities in Gaza.  He mentioned incendiary balloons, rockets firing.  And when he wants to talk about Israel, he used the word “responded”, two times he used “in response to that”.  So, why he cannot blame the occupation?  Why he cannot blame the siege imposed on Gaza by Israel?  Why only the Gazans are to be blamed for militant activities?

Spokesman:  I don’t… I don’t think he is solely blaming the Palestinians or the… for this situation.  He is reporting on the period that he’s meant to report to to the Security Council.  I think it is very clear what his, what our ultimate vision is, which is a resumption of negotiations, a halt to the activities that puts civilians at risk and in pain and at risk of death.  So, again, I think you’re… you are free and encouraged to do analysis and commentary on what he said, but he said what he said, and I really have nothing to add to it.  Toby?

Correspondent:  No, I read what [inaudible].  I’m not inventing it.

Spokesman:  I’m not saying you’re inventing.  I’m saying we have different visions of the words on paper.  So, I’m not here to interpret or analyse what Mr. Mladenov said.  Mr. Mladenov used very clear and precise language in English, and that’s what he said.  And he represents the views of the Secretariat in that regard and the Secretary‑General.

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Spokesman:  Yes, go ahead.  Go ahead.  And then, Iftikhar, I don’t know if you’re waving goodbye or wanted to ask a question?

Question:  Thank you.  One thing was… one… many things were missing in his briefing, especially the bodies of the Palestinian killed by Israel and the night raids that go on and on on Palestinian homes.  At 3 a.m. on Sunday morning, about 60 soldiers went to the village of Nabi Saleh to arrest young man Mohammed — sorry — Mohammed Bilal Tamimi.  Mohammed Bilal Tamimi is 21.  He was released from jail eight months ago.  He has a bullet in his chest, and he’s been under doctor’s protection and supervision.  Sixty soldiers went there, 15 of them inside the home, threw a pepper bomb on the family’s house, and they arrested him.  Until now, no one knows where he is.  They’ve been trying to reach out to every organization and UN to find out where is Mohammed Bilal Tamimi.  Until now, they don’t know where he is.  Can you come up with an answer?

Spokesman:  I will… we will refer that to Mr. Mladenov’s office and see what we can get.  Okay, all right.  Thank you, all, and see you tomorrow.  Bye.

For information media. Not an official record.