20 MAY 2021

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

The Secretary-General this morning told the General Assembly that the past 10 days have witnessed a dangerous and horrific surge in deadly violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly Gaza, and in Israel.  He appealed to all parties to cease hostilities, now.  And he called repeatedly on all sides for an immediate ceasefire.

The Secretary-General said the fighting has left thousands of Palestinians homeless, and forced over 50,000 people to leave their homes and seek shelter in UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) schools, as well as mosques, and other places with little access to water, food, hygiene or health services.  If there is a hell on earth, he added, it is the lives of children in Gaza today.

Mr. [António] Guterres said the UN will launch a full humanitarian appeal for funding as soon as possible, and that he is also working on releasing funds from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).  He added that access for humanitarian goods is paramount.

A revitalized peace process is the only route to a just and lasting solution, the Secretary-General said.  It is imperative that we keep this long-term vision alive.  His full remarks were shared with you.

And a number of you had asked me in this room and online about the work of our Special Coordinator [for the Middle East Peace Process], Tor Wennesland, and in response to those questions I can confirm to you that Mr. Wennesland is currently in Qatar as part of our efforts to restore calm in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially Gaza.  We are actively engaged with all the relevant parties for an immediate ceasefire.

For his part, the Secretary-General continues his intensive contacts with the parties and pertinent regional and international stakeholders.  He held a group meeting today with Arab ministers to discuss the current situation and he reiterated that we will continue its tireless efforts to bring about a ceasefire, to ensure humanitarian access, and to achieve a political solution that ends the occupation and realizes the two States living side by side in peace and security.  The Secretary-General also has a number of bilateral meetings later in the day.

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Questions and Answers

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Question:  Quick question about the Secretary-General’s meetings, bilaterals, with all the foreign ministers who are in town, has he heard about any start-up of the Quartet for negotiations on the Middle East?  And has he heard any news that’s being reported about a possibility of a ceasefire on Friday?  Thanks.

Spokesman:  No, there’s nothing yet to announce on a Quartet meeting.  Mr. Wennesland remains in touch with his envoy partners.  Yes, Abdelhamid?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Both the Foreign Minister of Turkey and the Foreign Minister of Pakistan called for protection of the Palestinian people.  And if the UN failed to do that, they said it could be a coalition of the willing to send some civilians to be deployed in Palestinian territories to protect the Palestinians.  What is your intake or what’s the SG’s point of view on that?

Spokesman:  We’ve seen… I mean, I’m not going to… I can’t comment in real time on the speeches.  For our part, we think the best way to protect civilians immediately would be a halt to the fighting and an immediate ceasefire.

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For information media. Not an official record.