UAE and China call for urgent UN Security Council meeting after Ben-Gvir's Al Aqsa visit

The Emirates has strongly condemned 'storming of Al Aqsa Mosque courtyard' by Israeli minister

Diplomats say a UN Security Council meeting to discuss Itamar Ben-Gvir's visit will probably take place on Thursday. Photo: UN
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The UAE and China have called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting following Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir's visit to Al Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem on Tuesday.

Diplomats say a session to discuss the issue will probably take place on Thursday. At the UN on Wednesday meanwhile, several meetings were planned between Arab delegates to discuss next steps.

Palestine’s ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour said the international community would show the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that it will act in a unified way to show it “will not accept and will condemn” abuses of international law and any breach of the historic status quo of the holy sites.

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation on Wednesday strongly condemned the “storming of Al Aqsa Mosque courtyard by an Israeli minister under the protection of Israeli forces”.

“The ministry underscored the need to respect the custodial role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan over the holy sites and endowments in accordance with international law and the historical situation at hand, and not to compromise the authority of the Jerusalem Endowment Administration and Al Aqsa Mosque,” officials said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he would also seek a Security Council condemnation, the country's Wafa News Agency reported.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on all “to refrain from steps that could escalate tensions in and around the holy sites”, his deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.

This follows a call between the foreign ministers of the UAE and Jordan, during which they stressed their condemnation of the visit.

Also on Wednesday, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, spoke to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

They discussed “the importance of preserving the status and sanctity of holy places in Jerusalem and increasing co-ordination against such unacceptable acts”, the UAE Ministry said.

“They reiterated the need to provide full protection for Al Aqsa Mosque and halt serious and provocative violations taking place there and called upon Israeli authorities to assume responsibility for reducing escalation and instability in the region,” the ministry said.

Germany released a statement on Wednesday saying it opposed any change to the status quo of the holy sites, calling Mr Ben-Gvir's action a provocation.

“We expect the new Israeli government to commit to a continuation of the tried and tested practice around the holy sites in Jerusalem and to put a stop to further deliberate provocations,” said a foreign ministry representative at a regular government news conference.

In more actions that threatened to escalate tensions, videos posted on social media early on Wednesday showed at least a dozen Jewish settlers performing Talmudic rituals near the Bab Al Rahma (Gate of Mercy), close to the Eastern Wall area of Al Aqsa compound.

Mr Ben-Gvir was surrounded by heavy security during the visit, after Palestinian warnings that his presence at the site would cause “an explosion”.

The minister, leader of the far-right Jewish National Front party, was sworn into office on Thursday.

Tensions continued on Wednesday as several Israeli police cars entered Jerusalem's Silwan neighbourhood accompanied by a bulldozer.

The Palestinian neighbourhood lies below the southern walls of the Old City, with Al Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, visible from the streets below.

Mr Ben-Gvir has previously visited the compound as a member of parliament and has called for Jewish worship there.

This is banned under an agreement with Jordan.

Under a long-standing status quo, non-Muslims can visit the site at specific times but they are not allowed to pray there.

Jordan, the custodian of Al Aqsa Mosque compound, summoned the Israeli ambassador and said the visit had breached international law and “the historic and legal status quo in Jerusalem”.

Several Israeli ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders spoke out against Mr Ben-Gvir on Wednesday, with senior United Torah Judaism politician Moshe Gafni saying the visit was “forbidden.”

“Besides the aspect of religious law, there is nothing to be gained from just goading the entire world,” he said.

The office of Israel's Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef said he had sent Mr Ben-Gvir what it called a “protest letter,” warning him that he “must not take action against the instructions of the Chief Rabbinate dating back generations.”

Updated: January 04, 2023, 4:29 PM