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UN chief ‘not optimistic’ about Israeli-Palestinian crisis


United Nations: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has told the Security Council that he was “not optimistic” following talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to urge them to defuse tensions, a diplomat said.

Ban addressed a closed-door emergency session of the council yesterday by video-conference from Amman, the latest stop on his mission to de-escalate the violence.

The UN chief traveled to the region on Tuesday to urge the Israelis and Palestinians to pull back from a “dangerous escalation” that could lead to a full-scale Palestinian uprising.

After meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, Ban delivered a sobering assessment of the prospects, according to a diplomat at the meeting.

Ban told the council that addressing the situation at the holy sites was key to quelling tensions, and that he was very concerned by incitement from both sides.

Stating bluntly that he had emerged from his meetings “not optimistic,” he said there was no time to waste to press for a de-escalation and pull the sides back from the brink.

At least 47 Palestinians and an Arab Israeli have been killed in the upsurge in violence that began at the start of the month, including alleged attackers. Eight Israelis have also died.

Ban’s report comes on the eve of a ministerial-level Security Council debate on the way forward in the Middle East amid fears that the violence could spiral out of control.

The UN chief also presented a report prepared by his legal experts on international protection after the Palestinians called for the deployment of an observer force in east Jerusalem.

The report, seen by AFP, outlines 17 cases – from Trieste after World War II to Kosovo in 1999 – when the Security Council stepped in and set up special regimes to guarantee the protection of civilians.

In a letter to the council, Ban said the report should not be seen as an “options paper” for addressing the current crisis between Israel and the Palestinians.

But he added that the report could be useful in “informing future work on this subject.”

The Palestinians have called for international protection, beginning with an observer force at the Al-Aqsa mosque, where clashes began in September.

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