UN chief urges de-escalation in Jerusalem, Gaza Strip

<p>UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres</p>

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

MOSCOW – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres voiced support on Wednesday to de-escalate tensions in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

He spoke at a news conference in Moscow following a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and said it is necessary to seek a reduction of violence to protect the lives of civilians "who are dying in these absolutely unacceptable circumstances."

Guterres reiterated the UN’s readiness to help Palestine and Israel get to the negotiating table to resolve contradictions peacefully, including using the Quartet on the Middle East format -- UN, US, EU and Russia.

"We are fully prepared to resume the work of the Quartet and to facilitate dialogue between the parties, as well as other participants in the process. We support all de-escalation steps to resume the peace process, which has long been dormant," he said.

Guterres emphasized that the peace process is "the only way to resolve the situation" and urged adherence to the two-state solution of the Palestinian problem.

"I think we need to stick to the two-state solution. It will lead to harmony and peace between the two parties to the conflict and will allow for the normalization of relations in the region with the full participation of the countries of the region in creating conditions for the advancement of the peace process," he said.

Guterres also pointed out the role of the UN Security Council in addressing the situation and stressed that resolutions and decisions must be based on international legislation.

Lavrov said he discussed with Guterres summoning an urgent meeting of the Middle East Quartet at foreign ministers level.

According to Lavrov, Guterres supported the initiative and said as a coordinator of the format, he can organize it within short terms.

Tensions have been running high in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem since last week when an Israeli court ordered the eviction of Palestinian families. The decision was later delayed.

Palestinians protesting in solidarity with residents of Sheikh Jarrah have been targeted by Israeli forces.

And Israeli forces raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque last Friday during special night prayers in Ramadan.

The escalation resulted in airstrikes by Israel on Gaza, which has left scores dead and hundreds wounded.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and annexed the entire city in 1980 – a move that has never been recognized by the international community.

Diplomatic efforts

France will step up diplomatic efforts with Europe and Middle East countries "to de-escalate the deadly clashes" between Israel and Palestine, the country’s foreign minister announced Wednesday.

Concerned with the new round of intensifying clashes, which have taken a heavy toll, Jean-Yves Le Drian said France was fully mobilized with Germany in particular along with Egypt and Jordan to help reduce tensions.

The four countries will push Israel and Palestine to resume dialogue with the objective of a “just and lasting resolution of the conflict” within the framework of international law and UN Security Council resolutions, he announced in a statement to the Senate.

Le Drian said at this point, the only priority was the “easing of tensions” and he would talk with his Israeli and Palestinian counterparts to convey about “de-escalation.”

Protest against attacks

In Geneva, protestors gathered Wednesday in front of the United Nations to demonstrate against the recent attacks by Israeli security forces in East Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Among the more than 1,000 people who organizers said attended were a group of Turks who waved Turkish and Palestinian flags while protesting under a three-legged broken chair monument to landmine victims worldwide.

Human rights organizations supported the demonstrations led by the Welfare and Justice Association (Refahder), the Geneva-based International Association for Human Rights and Development, and the Association of Torture Victims.

Among the protestors was Hani Ramadan, the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood organization, who spoke out against the attacks by Israeli security forces in East Jerusalem around Al-Aqsa Mosque and against Palestinian protesters.

Ender Demirtaş, president of Refahder’s European branch and the International Association for Human Rights and Development, said "the cause of Jerusalem and Palestine is to honor all humanity.”

"The Jerusalem case is not alone; the Muslims there are not alone."

He said they would do everything to defend their rights.

Demirtaş said the city of Jerusalem is common to all of humanity and not only Muslims.

Demonstrators chanted slogans such as "Long live Palestine," "Palestine's capital is Jerusalem" and "Terrorist Israel." (Anadolu)