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UN Mideast envoy calls for de-escalation of Temple Mount tensions

Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov says ‘moderate voices’ should speak up against those trying to fuel unrest.

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Nikolay Mladenov
UN Special Coordinator Nikolay Mladenov, February 9, 2015 (CC BY-SA Ottokars, Wikipedia)

The United Nations’ special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Nickolay Mladenov expressed concern on Thursday regarding the “recent surge in tensions and violence” at the Temple Mount.

The statement comes nearly a week after a deadly terror attack at the holy site by three Arab Israelis who killed two Israeli policeman, setting off days of unrest in the Israeli capital.

“I am deeply concerned by the recent surge in tensions and violence around the holy esplanade in the Old City of Jerusalem,” Mladenov said in a statement, calling on “all concerned parties to de-escalate the situation.”

The UN envoy said he welcomed repeated Israeli assurances that the status quo at the Temple Mount would be upheld — amid Palestinian accusations that the Israeli government was trying to change the delicate balance at the site where Israel controls access and the Waqf Islamic trust set up by Jordan administers activities inside the compound. Non-Muslims are allowed to visit but are prohibited from prayer.

“I welcome the commitment of Israeli Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu to uphold and respect the status quo at the holy sites, and Palestinian [Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas’ firm condemnation of violence, specifically the deadly attack on two Israeli policemen on 14 July,” he said.

Abbas denounced the attack but also slammed the Israeli government for its two-day closure of the site — known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif compound, which includes the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock sanctuary — following the attack and Israel’s subsequent security installations including metal detectors and cameras when it reopened Sunday. The Temple Mount is the holiest place for Jews, as the site of the biblical temples, and the third holiest for Muslims, as the site of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The increased security measures were taken after police said the three Arab Israeli attackers who emerged armed from the compound and shot dead two police officers just outside on Friday had stashed their weapons on the holy site.

Border police officers guard near metal detectors placed outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, July 16, 2017 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Border police officers guard near metal detectors placed outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City, July 16, 2017 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On Thursday, police released video footage showing how the killers and an accomplice got the guns into the Temple Mount compound.

Muslim worshipers have been protesting the new security measures, saying the move breaks the status quo agreement between Jerusalem and Amman, a charge Israel has rejected.

Abbas’s Fatah party also organized a “Day of Rage” on Wednesday against the move, with rioters clashing with Israeli police at sites around Jerusalem.

Waqf officials have boycotted the site in protest and have called on other Muslims to do the same. Several clashes have broken out following protest prayers next to the metal detectors.

Officials are worried that tensions may come to a head on Friday — the Muslim holy day — should the metal detectors remain in place.

Muslim worshipers shout slogans at the Lions' Gate, outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, on July 19, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Muslim worshipers shout slogans at the Lions’ Gate, outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City, on July 19, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Mladenov, however, said Thursday he hoped Netanyahu’s and Abbas’s “affirmations will contribute to resolving the concerns of all parties and put an end to the provocative rhetoric that has added to the escalation over the past week.”

He also made special note of the role of Jordan “and the historical role of King Abdullah II, as custodian of the Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem” in helping to de-escalate tensions.

Tensions between Israel and Jordan, who signed a peace treaty in 1994, have been high since the attack amid an Israeli investigation into suspicions the three terrorists who carried out the attack last week received help from Waqf officials. Israel has also strongly rejected a statement by the Jordanian parliament speaker who praised the terrorists — all from the northern Israeli town of Umm al-Fahm — saying they had “sowed and watered the pure land” and hailing “the sacrifice of the young Palestinians who are still fighting in the name of the nation.”

Master Sgt. Kamil Shnaan, left, and Master Sgt. Haiel Sitawe, right, the police officers killed in the terror attack next to the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem on July 14, 2017. (Israel Police)

Master Sgt. Kamil Shnaan, left, and Master Sgt. Haiel Sitawe, right, the police officers killed in the terror attack next to the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem on July 14, 2017. (Israel Police)

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein lashed out at the Jordanian official in a video message this week, saying: “It’s inconceivable that such a senior figure from a country we have peace with would dare encourage the murder of Israeli citizens. If you’re unable to condemn terror attacks, just keep quiet.”

The Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, meanwhile, said the key to restoring calm is to have Israel respect the “historic and legal status” at the shrine. Safadi told ambassadors from Europe and Asia that ending tensions is in the hands of Israel which he said should immediately reopen the shrine without any hindrances, according to a report in the Jordanian news agency Petra.

Mladenov said he called “on all concerned parties to de-escalate the situation and on moderate voices to speak up against those who try to fuel tensions.”

Source : The Times of Israel

Middle East

Abbas says to address UN assembly on issues causing suffering to Palestinians

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Mahmoud Abbas

Ramallah, Sep 16 : Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday that he will address the upcoming UN General Assembly on issues causing suffering to Palestinians.

Abbas made the remarks during a meeting he chaired for Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Xinhua reported.

“We will go to the United Nations to confront the world with the issues that our people are suffering,” said Abbas, who is scheduled to deliver a speech at the UN headquarters in New York on September 27.

The addressed issues include the Israeli decision to demolish Al-Khan Al-Ahmar Bedouin village east of Jerusalem, and the status of Al-Aqsa Mosque in the holy city, he added.

“We are consulting with our brothers in Jordan to form a unified position to go to the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice on what is going on at the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Abbas noted.

The Palestinian President said the final decision will be made by the PLO central council after he returned from the UN assembly.

The United States and the Palestinians have almost severed ties since US President Donald Trump declared Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on December 6, 2017.

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Middle East

Iran to increase uranium enrichment if EU fails

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Iran President

Tehran, Sep 16 (IANS) Iran would increase uranium enrichment if the European Union (EU) fails to implement its obligations following the US withdrawal from the Iranian landmark nuclear deal, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Saturday.

“The Europeans and the other signatories must act in order to compensate for the effects of the US sanctions,” Zarif was quoted as saying by Press TV.

He downplayed the possibility of Iran’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal, but cautioned the EU partners that Iran might act if they fail to secure Iran’s interests in the deal.

“Oil and banks” are the “litmus test,” he said, alluding to the EU pledges to help Tehran in the face of US re-imposition of sanctions on Iran’s oil exports and banking transactions.

European parties need to decide whether being ready to follow their words, Zarif said, adding that “they should also decide if they want to submit to US pressure.”

Iran and six world powers, namely Russia, Britain, China, France, the United States and Germany, struck a landmark agreement over Iran’s nuclear programme in 2015, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

However, US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw Washington from the deal on May 8 and re-impose sanctions, including oil embargo, on Iran.

Iran has held several rounds of talks with France, Britain and Germany to revive the blocking statute, a 1996 regulation that prohibits EU companies and courts from complying with foreign sanctions laws.

Iran has incessantly urged Europe to take “practical and tangible measures” to protect Iranian interests since the US pullout.

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Middle East

Palestinians still committed to making just peace with Israel: Abbas

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Mahmoud Abbas

Jerusalem, Sep 14 (IANS) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday that the Palestinian people are still committed to making just peace with Israel.

Abbas made the remarks during a meeting at his headquarters in Ramallah with the leaders of three main religions, Islam, Christianity and Judaism, in the Palestinian territories.

He stressed on the necessity of making peace with Israel based on international resolutions related to the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, Xinhua reported.

Abbas was quoted by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA as saying that the Palestinian people deserve an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital, “which will be open for the three main religions”.

“Palestine is a model to be followed and a good example in coexistence and social peace,” the Palestinian leader said.

The religious leaders affirmed to Abbas their support to his policies that aim at achieving the hope and aspiration of the Palestinian people, namely freedom and independence.

Abbas is scheduled to address the General Assembly of the United Nations on September 27.

Ahmad Majdalani, a senior official in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said that Abbas’ speech “will be like the worksheet for the coming stage”.

He told the official Voice of Palestine Radio that the Palestinians will carry on with their steps that will be escalated within the coming period, in response to the American and Israeli policies and measures that were taken to terminate the Palestinian cause.

The Palestinian Authority has been boycotting the US administration led by President Donald Trump as a peace broker, after Trump announced last December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and relocated the US ambassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the disputed holy city in May.

The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been stalled since 2014 after nine months of US-sponsored talks failed to make progress to resolve the decades-long conflict.

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