UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland expressed his deep concern over the events of the past two weeks in Israel and the occupied West Bank, which have resulted in the death and injury of many civilians.
According to a statement distributed by the UN Information Centre in Cairo on Wednesday, Wennesland referred in particular to the escalating tensions that Jerusalem witnessed in the Old City and in and around the holy sites in recent days during a holy time for Muslims, Jews, and Christians.
Wennesland commended the close contacts between the UN and all those concerned to calm the situation, which he described as constructive, and encouraged continued engagement between the parties concerned.
“All efforts to reduce tensions should be encouraged, as should the categorical rejection of provocations and incitement to violence,” he said.
He also called on leaders on all sides to take responsibility for reducing tensions, creating conditions conducive to calm, and ensuring the protection of the status quo in the holy sites.
Furthermore, Wennesland said that the UN Secretary-General held a series of contacts in which he discussed the situation in Jerusalem and renewed his call for calm and the preservation of and respect for “the status quo in the holy sites in Jerusalem.”
In the same context, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas affirmed on Tuesday evening his absolute rejection to any change to the historical status quo at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
Abbas made his remarks during a meeting with Wennesland at the Presidential Headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
During the meeting, Abbas briefed Wennesland on the brutal Israeli assaults against worshippers at the mosque and across the occupied territories as well as on daily settler encroachments upon the religious landmark, pointing out that such assaults and encroachments violate the historical and legal status of the occupied city, which requires non-Muslim visits to the site to be coordinated through the Muslim Waqf Department.
Abbas also stressed the importance of the creation of a political horizon conducive to ending the Israeli occupation of the territories of Palestine, including East Jerusalem.
He then called on the UN to mobilise regional and international efforts to end the historical injustice against the Palestinian people in accordance with international law and relevant UN resolutions to enable Palestinian people to live in freedom, peace, security, and dignity in their homeland.
For his part, Wennesland confirmed that the UN Secretary-General will continue his efforts to stop the escalation, noting that the UN Security Council will hold an open meeting on the situation in Palestine on 25 April.