The situation in the Middle East – Security Council Open VTC Briefing

Briefing by Nickolay Mladenov, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, during the Security Council Open VTC.

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said, “the dangerous prospect of annexation by Israel of parts of the occupied West Bank is a growing threat. If such a move were implemented, it would constitute a serious violation of international law, deal a devastating blow to the two-state solution, close the door to a renewal of negotiations, and threaten efforts to advance regional peace.”

Briefing the Security Council via video link 23 Apr, Mladenov noted that on 20 April, the two leading political parties in Israel signed a coalition agreement to form a government. While the two sides reiterated a commitment to advance peace agreements and cooperate with Israel’s neighbors, they also agreed on advancing annexation of parts of the West Bank, starting 1 July 2020. The Palestinian Authority has threatened that if this move takes place, it will cancel the implementation of all bilateral agreements.

Despite these worrying developments, Mladenov also said that he is encouraged that the COVID-19 crisis has also created some opportunities for cooperation and stated that he hopes these opportunities will not be undermined or destroyed if the political context between Israel and the Palestinian Authority deteriorates.

He said, “the recognition of this interdependence, if there is political will, can translate into tangible progress towards resolving the conflict.”

He “strongly” urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders to “seize this moment to take steps towards peace, to reject unilateral moves that will only deepen the wedge between the two peoples and undermine the chances for peace.”

Aside from the immediate health concerns on COVID-19, Mladenov also highlighted that the pandemic can take a severe toll on the broader socio-economic situation.

He noted that if current trends continue, the damage to the economy risks the very existence of the Palestinian Authority. Revenues from trade, tourism and transfers have declined to their lowest levels in the last two decades. The PA fiscal gap for 2020 will likely exceed USD 1 billion.

The Special Coordinator said, “Israel has a critical responsibility to ensure the well-being and safety of people under its control. As a result of the occupation, the Palestinian Authority has limited sway over its economy and does not have access to the conventional monetary and fiscal tools necessary to remedy the crisis.”

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