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Palestine’s UN envoy calls for international action to end Israeli occupation

Ambassador Riyad Mansour discussed the diplomatic activity that has been going on behind the scenes in the recent, turbulent months.

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“The next phase of international diplomacy to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must focus on ending Israel’s occupation and establishing an independent Palestinian state”, according to Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian Ambassador to the UN.

The Ambassador told a news agency that efforts at the UN relating to Palestine this year have fallen into three distinct phases. “Phase one was the preparation for an international conference, based on the calls of President Mahmoud Abbas,” he said.

Mansour added that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov played an important role in this phase, which included the revival of the dormant Madrid Quartet comprised of Russia, the US, the UN, and the EU.

“We saw the revival of the Quartet and the creation of a ‘Quartet-plus’ that includes key Arab and international states,” he said. “The Quartet-plus was approached to try to resolve the Jerusalem obstacle for Palestinian elections.”

The second phase of activity at the UN focused on ensuring Palestinians in Jerusalem would be allowed to vote, he said. Abbas eventually postponed the elections after the Quartet was unable to secure such an assurance from the Israelis, Mansour added.

The third phase, described by Riyad Mansour, began in April, during Ramadan, and continued until the ceasefire after the 11-days of fighting between Hamas and Israel this month.

“We worked hard during this period to stop Israeli attacks on Muslim and Christian worshippers in Jerusalem, the eviction of Palestinian families from Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah and Silgan neighborhoods, and the harassment of Arabs at Damascus Gate and in the old city of Jerusalem,” Mansour said.

Elsewhere, Mansour insisted that he represents all Palestinians at the UN, and his current efforts there have three main aims. “We want the ceasefire to become permanent, we want a serious humanitarian effort involving all relevant UN agencies, with Israel not putting up any obstacles, and finally we want to be sure that immediate and serious effort is exerted in the effort to end the Israeli occupation and toward the realization of an independent Palestinian state,” he said.

The hostilities between Israel and Palestine were set off in part by raids on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem and the subsequent clashes with worshippers during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

At the same time, the first Palestinian elections for 15 years were set to take place on May 22 but were jeopardized by growing concerns about whether Israeli authorities would allow Palestinians to vote in the city.

These factors, along with the eviction of Palestinian families in the neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, resulted in an ultimatum given to Israel by the governing body of the besieged Gaza Strip, Hamas. Soon after, an 11-day conflict began between the two sides that ended on May 21, through Egyptian mediation.

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