HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC,

SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES

MONDAY, 10 MAY 2021

MIDDLE EAST
The Council started its work this morning with closed consultations on the Middle East. Council members heard an update on the situation in occupied East Jerusalem from the UN Special Coordinator, Tor Wennesland.

As for the situation on the ground, a number of you have been asking me before the briefing and I can tell you that the Secretary-General is following with deep concern the latest security developments, which risk triggering yet another dangerous escalation leading to further violence and loss of lives. He condemns in the strongest terms the launching of rockets from Gaza into Israel, which have reportedly been claimed by Hamas, particularly the targeting of civilian population centres. He urges all parties to exercise maximum restraint. Special Coordinator Mr. Wennesland is working closely with all concerned parties to restore calm. His office is monitoring the situation closely.

In a statement we issued last night, the Secretary-General expressed his deep concern over the continuing violence in occupied East Jerusalem, as well as the possible evictions of Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighborhoods. He urges Israel to cease demolitions and evictions, in line with obligations under international humanitarian and international human rights law.

Israeli authorities must exercise maximum restraint and respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. All leaders have a responsibility to act against extremists and to speak out against all acts of violence and incitement. The Secretary-General urges that the status quo of the holy sites be upheld and respected, and if we have more, as the situation is unfolding, we may have more for you later this afternoon.

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Questions and Answers

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Question:  [Inaudible] condemns the rocket launch from Gaza by Hamas, but I didn’t hear you talking about condemnation for Israeli actions against, violence against Palestinian civilians?

Spokesman:  I think that is reflected in the, it’s reflected in the statement, where we urge the Israelis to cease demolitions and evictions in line with obligations under international, humanitarian international law and that the Israeli authorities need to use maximum restraint and respect, the right for people to assemble freely, and that’s what we saw over the weekend in… this is… in response to what we saw in response over… to what we saw in Jerusalem over the weekend.

Question:  Yeah, but does the Secretary‑General condemn the Israeli violence against Palestinians?

Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General is against any violence against civilians.  People have a right to demonstrate freely, and people should be demonstrating peacefully to express their opinion.  Madame?

Question:  Steph, a follow‑up on East Jerusalem.  Can you tell us how many Palestinians have been injured during the clashes over the weekend?  And also, has the Secretary‑General talked with the Israeli Prime Minister?  And not only civilians, but also journalists have been injured, including three of my colleagues over the weekend.  What is your reaction to that?

Spokesman:  Look, we stand against any, anything that would stop… make unable journalists to do their work in any circumstances.  That’s been our position.  There have been different numbers reported in the press.  I don’t have any UN numbers to give you.  Right now, what we have seen is the numbers reported by the Palestinian Red Crescent, reported by the Israeli authorities, as well, but I don’t have any UN numbers to give you at this point.  Edie, and then Cel… sorry, go ahead.

Question:  [Inaudible]?

Spokesman:  No, he has not spoken to the Israeli Prime Minister.  Mr. Wennesland is in touch with all sides, the Israelis and Palestinians, and his office is, as well.

Question:  Can you share or will you share the remarks of the Special Coordinator for the Middle East?  He briefed the Council, as you said this morning.  Are you going to share it with us?

Spokesman:  No, those were remarks delivered in closed consultations.

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Question:  Two quick questions on East Jerusalem.  First is, does the Secretary‑General consider it a provocation that the Jerusalem Day Flag Parade routes should go through the Damascus Gate?  That’s the first one.  And then, second, on East Jerusalem is, can you give us any more detail about how Mr. Wennesland is going about his de‑escalation efforts here?  Where does he think that the crucial effort in these moments should be placed?

Spokesman:  The crucial effort should be placed on ensuring the safety of civilians.  Right?  That’s the, an immediate need.  Mr. Wennesland and his team are talking to all relevant parties to try to de‑escalate tensions, and that’s something that we need to see across the board.  I don’t know what the exact route of the parade, you know, what route the parade took.  What is important is that we don’t want to see anything from anyone that would provoke more violence and provoke more injuries.

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Question:  Thank you, Steph.  I just have a short follow‑up to East Jerusalem.  Does the Secretary‑General see one of the conflict parties as the aggressor in this newly… in this violence?

Spokesman:  Look, there is a cycle of violence that must cease, and for that cycle to be broken, all parties need to participate.  Joe?

Question:  Yes.  Does the Secretary‑General have any comment on the decision by the Israeli Supreme Court to delay its decision on whether to order the eviction of the Palestinian occupants of the residences of East Jerusalem that was announced, I believe, yesterday?

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Question:  Yeah.  Just a follow‑up, if the court… the Supreme Court of Israel were to reach a decision that results in evictions, through the Israeli judicial process, would that alone be considered a violation of international law by the Secretary‑General?

Spokesman:  I’m not going to speculate on what‑ifs.  Our position is… our position is clear today, and it will not… I don’t anticipate it changing at any time.  Madame.

Question: [Inaudible]?

Spokesman:  Well, I think it’s pretty clear the Secretary‑General urges Israel to cease demolitions and evictions in line with its obligations under international humanitarian and international human rights law.  Iftikhar, I think you had a question, and then we’ll go to Michelle.  Sorry.  Iftikhar and then Michelle.

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  The situation in East Jerusalem, as you stated, is extremely serious, and the Secretary‑General agrees with that.  Does he plan to use his authority under Article 99 to bring the situation… convene the Security Council?

Spokesman:  Well, I mean, it seems to me that the Security Council is fully seized of the issue given that the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, is on its agenda.

Correspondent:  But, Article 99 authorizes him to convene a meeting…

Spokesman:  I know what Article 99 says.  What I’m saying to you, Iftikhar, is that I think all the parties… the Security Council is already fully seized of the issue.  This is not an issue, this is an issue which is already front and centre on the agenda of the Security Council.  Latest example is the closed consultations that took place today.  Michelle Nichols?

Question:  Thanks, Steph.  Couple of things.  On Wednesday, you’re probably aware of this event on Xinjiang that a few Member States are organizing.  Has anyone from the UN been invited to attend or brief?

Spokesman:  There is… my understanding is that no one from the UN is participating in this particular meeting.

Question:  Were they invited, though?  Why aren’t they participating?

Spokesman:  I’m not aware of any invitation officially being extended.

For information media. Not an official record.