UK wants to prioritise peace and cooperation in the Middle East in the midst of COVID-19
Ambassador James Roscoe, acting UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, at the Security Council (UNSC) briefing on Middle East Peace Process said that cooperation must be the first instinct and the UNSC should work to combat this unprecedented challenge together.
Roscoe said that the virus does not respect borders, nor political, cultural or religious differences. The ambassador welcomed the formation of a national unity government by Israel. “This is an important step, demonstrating the need to put political differences aside in the fight against COVID-19,” he said.
“It is clear that UNWRA has an important role to play in helping to respond to the crisis brought about by COVID-19. The virus and its impact on Palestinians and basic services will put additional pressure on UNWRA,” Roscoe said. “The UK remains firmly committed to supporting UNRWA and Palestinian refugees across the Middle East, providing over $80 million for 2019/2020. And we are reviewing our contributions in the light of the COVID-19 challenge.”
The UK is also providing vital support to help respond to COVID-19 in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. For example, it provided $1 million funding contribution will enable the World Health Organisation and UNICEF to purchase and coordinate the medical supplies, treat critical care patients, train frontline public health servants and scale up laboratory testing capability.
“We must also be mindful of the impact of the virus on the Palestinian economy and economic development. The Palestinian Authority’s revenues, which come mostly from levies on trade, are expected to decline by between 60 and 70% as a result of the crisis. The Occupied Palestinian Territories are excluded from most international mechanisms, including the World Bank’s $14 billion COVID-19 fund. The Palestinian Authority does not issue a currency and cannot adopt the measures many countries are taking to increase liquidity,” Roscoe said.
Roscoe said, “Finally, we are deeply concerned by reports that the new Israeli government coalition has reached an agreement which paves the way for annexation of parts of the West Bank. The UK position is clear: any unilateral moves towards annexation of parts of the West Bank by Israel would be damaging to efforts to restart peace negotiations and would be contrary to international law.”
The United Kingdom’s longstanding position on the Middle East Peace Process “has not changed” Roscoe concluded. “We support a negotiated settlement leading to a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state, based on 1967 borders with agreed land swaps, Jerusalem as the shared capital of both states and a just, fair, agreed and realistic settlement for refugees.”