Israeli, Palestinian leaders urged to make "difficult compromises" for peace

Israeli, Palestinian leaders urged to make "difficult compromises" for peace

A senior UN official called upon both Israeli and Palestinian leaders to make the "difficult compromises" that will promote stability and ensure long-term security in the region, Xinhua reported.

Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen, assistant UN secretary-general ad interim for UN political affairs, made the statement as he was briefing the UN Security Council on the current situation in the Middle East.

Preventing a further escalation of tensions in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and returning to negotiations has never been more important, he said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is alarmed by the rising tensions - particularly attacks against religious sites - that has continued since the Security Council's emergency session on Oct. 29, he said.

"The secretary-general has expressed his deep concern about the upsurge in violence and calls on all sides to do everything possible to avoid further exacerbating an already tense environment," Toyberg-Frandzen said.

"The continued reality of the close to 50-year-long occupation and the lack of progress towards the two-State solution ensure that the next round of violence is never too far below the surface, " he said. "The time has come for leaders on both sides to make the difficult compromises that will promote stability and ensure long-term security for both Israelis and Palestinians."

The two-State solution, widely backed by the international community, means a secure Israel to live in peace with an independent State of Palestine.

Ties between Israelis and the Palestinians have been tensed for several months, and this tension has recently grown due to deterioration in the security situation in east Jerusalem and at al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the most holy shrines for all Muslims all over the world.

Clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli security forces in many parts of East Jerusalem and the West Bank have been taking place on an almost daily basis, and escalating tensions surrounding access to holy sites have contributed significantly to the spike in violence. Violence has also spread elsewhere in Israel and the West Bank, according to Toyberg-Frandzen.

He said that incidents have included Israeli police shooting and killing an Israeli Arab man in the village of Kafr Kanna in northern Israel on Nov. 8, alleging that the man had threatened them with a knife.

On the same day, thousands of people reportedly protested the killing, leading to clashes with police in the village. On Nov. 10, an Israeli soldier in Tel Aviv and an Israeli woman in the West Bank were stabbed to death, while on Nov. 11, a Palestinian man was reportedly shot to death by Israeli security forces during clashes at a refugee camp near Hebron.

The secretary-general welcomes the renewed assurances by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that there will be no changes made to the status quo regarding the holy sites, saying he expects Israel to continue to ensure the protection of the holy sites and the safety of all worshippers, as per its agreement with Jordan.

While voicing hope that the announced confidence-building measures and firm commitments to maintain the status quo regarding the holy sites will "translate immediately into a de-escalation of tensions," Toyberg-Frandzen said he was encouraged by the lifting on Nov. 14 of age restrictions for access to the Haram Ash-Sharif/ Temple Mount, where Friday prayers reportedly occurred without incident.

Another worrying development, however, is the increase in demolitions of Palestinian buildings, which is also contributing to rising animosity in Jerusalem. Since Oct. 21, a total of 82 structures - of which 47 are residential - were demolished in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The demolitions displaced 169 Palestinians, including 80 children.

Meanwhile, Israel's ongoing settlement activity "continues to undermine efforts to calm the tensions in Jerusalem," said Toyberg- Frandzen, who noted plans have been advanced to build some 500 residential units in the settlement of Ramat Shlomo, and 28 new building permits and 200 new residential units were approved in the settlement of Ramot, in East Jerusalem.

He also stressed that such actions are in defiance of the unanimous opposition to increased settlement activity expressed in the recent Council session on Jerusalem.

"As the secretary-general has consistently repeated, such unilateral actions will only further impede the chances for long- term stability and a durable peace and should therefore be reversed," Toyberg-Frandzen said.

Reiterating that the secretary-general urges the parties to return to peace talks, Toyberg-Frandzen noted the recent meeting on the peace process held in Washington and the call for the resumption of peace talks by the European Union's High Representative during her visit to the region this month.

"Returning to negotiations has never been more important," he said. "The absence of a credible political framework is further hardening positions on both sides and is providing greater political space to those seeking to exploit the lack of trust between the two parties for personal or political gain."

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