UN council members express alarm over Jerusalem violence

US did not want the 15-nation body to issue a formal statement on the violence at this stage

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Amid renewed violence involving Israeli police and Palestinian protesters at Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem on Monday, UN Security Council members met for emergency talks.

Council members heard from Tor Wennesland, the UN’s envoy on the stalled Middle East peace process, in private online talks aimed at easing tension in Jerusalem and bringing the chaos under control.

The 15-nation body discussed a statement, drafted by Norway, that called for a halt to Israeli settlement-building, evictions and demolitions and referred to the long-standing goal of a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict.

But the council did not issue a formal statement at the talks, with diplomats saying the US saw public comments as counterproductive. Individual members did, however, release calls for an end to the violence.

Zhang Jun, the UN ambassador for China, which this month holds the council’s rotating presidency, was “deeply concerned” by “disturbing” violence involving police and civilians in East Jerusalem, China’s mission said in a statement.

“China condemns the violence against civilians, calls on all sides to exercise restraint and refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric and encourages immediate actions towards de-escalation,” said the statement.

“Israeli authorities should take necessary measures to prevent violence, threats and provocations against Muslim worshippers.”

Mr Zhang also criticised the “looming eviction” of Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighbourhoods to make way for Jewish settlers, a focal point for Palestinian anger.

“China urges Israel to cease demolitions, evictions and all settlement activities, in line with its obligations,” the statement added.

Vietnam, a non-permanent council member, posted similar comments on social media.

Ireland, one of several council members that had called for the talks, said on Twitter it was “deeply concerned about clashes and escalating violence" and urged “leaders on all sides to stand against violence” and to ease tension.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Sunday called for Israel to “cease demolitions and evictions” and for Israeli security forces to “exercise maximum restraint and respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly”.

“All leaders have a responsibility to act against extremists and to speak out against all acts of violence and incitement,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday called on all parties to de-escalate tension in Jerusalem and urged practical steps towards that end.

“We are very focused on the situation in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. We are very deeply concerned about the rocket attacks that we are seeing now that need to stop and need to stop immediately,” Mr Blinken said.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington was also “deeply concerned” about the potential eviction of the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighborhoods of Jerusalem.

In a call with his Israeli counterpart, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has expressed ‘serious concerns’ about the situation in Jerusalem, including the potential evictions.

US President Joe Biden has not yet commented on the crisis.

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Updated: May 11, 2021 07:31 PM

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