Covid-19 feeding off instability in M-E, says UN envoy

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, has warned that the Covid-19 pandemic was feeding off instability in the region.

In a virtual briefing to the Security Council on Monday, Mladenov told the 15-member body that “a coherent, coordinated approach” was needed to contain the pandemic, saying that the UN would continue to advocate for increasing cooperation, including urging the parties to “work together to mitigate risks, save lives and avoid unilateral actions that undermine these efforts”, reports Xinhua news agency.

With a significant tightening of restrictions in Israel and Gaza, a state of emergency extension throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the resurgence of Covid-19 has “seriously compounded the humanitarian and economic challenges on the ground”, Mladenov said.

While UN-brokered arrangements continue to allow medical patients to be transferred from Gaza to hospitals beyond, and humanitarian supplies into the enclave, the Palestine Authority’s decision to halt coordination with Israel remains.

“The UN cannot replace the roles and responsibilities of the Palestinian Authority or the Government of Israel,” he said.

“Any increased responsibilities for the UN in this regard should be limited and timebound.”

While the international community’s commitment “remains unwavering” in its support to both sides in finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the UN envoy asserted that the process requires “leadership from both Israelis and Palestinians to work together and advance the cause of peace”.

The world body “stands ready to mediate solutions to the fiscal crisis and to get the Palestinian economy on better footing”, said Mladenov, reiterating the UN chief’s call for both sides to “re-examine the nature of their economic relationship and improve it for the benefit of both peoples.”

He appealed to the Palestinian leadership to resume its coordination with Israel and accept its clearance revenues, calling it “money that belongs to the Palestinian people and cannot be replaced by donor funding”.

Pointing to the recent normalization agreements between Israel and Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan, along with statements from international partners and the League of Arab States, the special coordinator said that “the commitment to the two-state solution, in line with UN resolutions and international law, continues to be affirmed by broad regional and international consensus”.