25 MARCH 2021

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

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**Middle East

Tor Wennesland, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefed the members of the Security Council by VTC this morning.  He said that we have witnessed a spike in demolitions and seizures of Palestinian-owned structures, which include internationally funded humanitarian projects.  Mr. Wennesland urged Israel to cease demolitions and evictions, in line with its obligations under international humanitarian law, and to approve plans that would enable these communities to build legally and address their development needs.  He added that COVID-19 continues to have a devastating effect on Palestinians.  In addition to the brutal impact on public health, the recurrent lockdowns, school closures and reduction of commercial activity have severely undermined living conditions.  The Special Coordinator said that support to the Palestinian COVID-19 response should be significantly enhanced to ensure that Palestinians receive a fair and timely share in the distribution of vaccines.  Mr. Wennesland said he is deeply concerned by the daily violence that continues to fuel mistrust and drives us further from a peaceful resolution of the conflict.  He is particularly concerned that children are so often the victims.  Children should never be the target of violence by any party, nor be exposed to violence, he said.

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Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  I was listening to the briefing of the… of Mr. Wennesland, and I have two questions.  First, when he was talking about the provocative statements by officials from both sides, he gave three examples from Palestinians and… very harsh examples, and he gave one mild statement from an Israeli member of the Knesset, which is… that is very unfair.  And I want to ask him through you why he did that.  And I can give him 20 statements, especially during elections, that targeting the Palestinians, dehumanising the Palestinians, threatening the Palestinians of ethnic cleansing, et cetera.  So, that is one question.  The second question, when he uses the word “in response” to that Israel conducted a raid in Gaza, which ended up with eight injured Palestinians, “in response”, what does that mean, “in response”?  Isn’t occupation itself a reason for a Palestinian to resist occupation?  Why Israel “in response” that is he just… he is giving a justification to the Israelis to commit these atrocities against civilians.  Why is that  I need an answer for these two statements he gave.

Deputy Spokesman:  The answer to both questions is the same, that Mr. Wennesland uses his best judgement in terms of determining what information to put into his briefings to the Security Council and how best to portray it, and we have confidence in his selection of material and the words that he uses.  Ultimately, dealing with parties is always a series of judgement calls about how you present different matters, and it is his role, as a professional diplomat, to weigh all the various factors in doing that, and we simply trust his judgement on that.

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For information media. Not an official record.