Statement by Ambassador Lyall Grant of the UK Mission to the UN, to the Security Council meeting on the Situation in the Middle East
Thank you Madam President. I thank Under Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman for his briefing and the representatives of Israel and Palestine for their statements.
The United Kingdom deplores the recent escalation in violence and Israel’s recent settlement announcements.
We remain concerned about tensions and continuing restrictions on Palestinian worshippers at the Haram Al-Sharif / Temple Mount compound in recent months. Attempts to alter the longstanding status quo have serious political and security implications. We strongly urge the Israeli authorities to live up to their commitment to uphold the status quo by complying with their obligations under international law as an occupying power in East Jerusalem, including with regard to the protection of holy sites.
We value Jordan’s important role as custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem and urge the Israelis to work with the Jordanian Waqf in order to reduce tensions and avoid potential flashpoints, including by preventing a worsening of the situation following the high profile visits by extremists with a heavy police presence.
The United Kingdom has long made it clear that we condemn any actions that make it more difficult to reach a peace agreement.
In this regard, we strongly condemn the recent increase in violence in Jerusalem this year, which has resulted in the deaths of five Palestinians and a terrorist incident in the Ammunition Hill area which led to the deaths of two Israelis.
The United Kingdom is also profoundly concerned by recent settlement announcements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Our long-standing national position on Israeli settlements is clear: they are illegal under international law, they present an obstacle to peace and they take us further away from a two-state solution. We therefore deplore Israel’s recent decisions to advance plans for settlement units in Givat Hamatos, expropriate land near Bethlehem and to make further announcement this week to advance plans for 1060 new housing units in East Jerusalem.
We are also deeply concerned by plans to relocate the Bedouin population from around the sensitive E1 area, and by recent demolitions of Palestinian structures in East Jerusalem and Area C of the West Bank.
The movement by Israeli settlers into the Silwan neighbourhood in East Jerusalem over the last two months, has further fuelled tensions in Jerusalem.
All these developments undermine prospects for a two-state solution and make it much more difficult for Israel’s friends to defend it against accusations that it is not serious about peace. We strongly urge the Government of Israel to reverse its policy over illegal settlements.
We urge all parties urgently to take steps to reduce tensions and create a climate conducive to peace. We urge the parties to focus efforts on resuming serious and comprehensive negotiations towards resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as making swift progress in the Cairo Gaza talks. Bold political steps and leadership are necessary to end this conflict. And they are needed now.
I thank you