Only weeks after the Palestinian flag was hoisted at the UN headquarters in New York, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has flown to the war-torn region in West Asia to urge the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to take quick action to halt the escalating violence.
“Palestinian and Israeli leaders: Stand firm against terror, violence and incitement. Demonstrate in both words and deeds that the historic status quo of holy sites in Jerusalem will be preserved” said Ban in a video message prior to his arrival at Jerusalem.
In the same video Ban Ki-Moon addressed the people of both nations, “There is no so-called “security” solution. You – the people of Israel — as much as the Palestinian people, need to see a political horizon to break this cycle of violence and fear.”
In recent weeks more than 44 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli security forces. And 8 Israelis have lost their lives in the attacks.
More Palestinians have taken to the streets as they see an increased visit of Jews to al-Aqsa plaza in Jerusalem, Islam’s holiest site outside Saudi Arabia which is revered in Judaism as the location of two destroyed biblical temples.
The upsurge in bloodshed began last month when tensions at al-Aqsa plaza, boiled amid rumours that Israel planned to relax long-standing rules to strengthen Jewish rights at the complex. Israel has however denied such claims.
As the violence between the two nations is heading towards a broader crisis, Ban Ki-moon has made a sudden visit as the head of the international organisation.
Speaking moments after arriving at Jerusalem, Ban said the wave of unrest was undermining Palestinian statehood hopes and Israel’s longing for security.
“This conflict has gone on for far too long,” he said. “We must, for the future of our children, come back from this dangerous abyss, safeguard the two-state solution and lead people back onto the road towards peace.”
Notably, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas had earlier said that Palestinians were increasingly frustrated with the failure of peace talks to achieve statehood.
On Wednesday morning, Ban Ki-moon met with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the capital city of Jerusalem. Netanyahu asserted at the meeting that Israel does not threaten to take over the al-Aqsa mosque.
“President Abbas has joined ISIS and Hamas in claiming that Israel threatens the al-Aqsa mosque. This, Mr. Secretary, is a total lie. Israel vigorously protects the holy sites of all faiths. We keep the status quo” claimed Netanyahu.
Ban praised Netanyahu’s commitment to preserving the status quo in accordance to an agreement that has Jordan as the custodian of the holy site.
Upset about Ban Ki-moon’s visit, the Israeli President, Reuven Rivlin, said, “It is up to the parties of the region to find a way to bring an end to this tragedy.”
Ban Ki-moon will be travelling to Jordan after visiting Ramallah in Palestine to further discuss the status quo agreement between the two nations.