United Nations News Service

UNESCO: Israel must stop work near Al-Aqsa Mosque pending agreed plan

Although Israeli archaeological work for an access pathway in Jerusalem’s Old City does not threaten the Al-Aqsa Mosque and complies with professional standards, Israel should at once stop excavations and consult on a final plan with Muslim religious authorities and other parties, according to a United Nations experts’ report. The report, drafted by a technical mission sent by UNESCO amid international concerns over the excavations, said Israel “should be asked to stop immediately” since work already undertaken was deemed sufficient to assess structural conditions for the pathway to the Mughrabi Gate after a partial collapse in 2004 due to heavy rain and snow. 

UN official discusses latest situation in southern Lebanon with officials in Beirut

A senior United Nations official today discussed with Lebanese officials full implementation of the Security Council resolution that ended last summer’s war between Israel and Hizbollah, following similar talks earlier this week with Israeli authorities. “We discussed many issues from the question of prisoners, Israeli prisoners in Lebanon, Lebanese prisoners in Israel — we would like to see more progress on that,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Advisor on the situation in the Middle East Michael Williams told reporters after meeting with officials in Beirut. 

UN official urges world community to match 'courage' of Palestinian unity government

The agreement to form a new Palestinian Unity Government challenges the international community to “match the courage and compromises” shown by the rival parties with “bold steps of its own,” a senior United Nations official said today. “The inter-factional fighting that raged across parts of Gaza posed a genuine threat to the existence of the Palestinian polity,” UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Karen Koning AbuZayd told a meeting of the agency’s Advisory Commission in Amman, Jordan. 

Growing poverty, unemployment threaten Palestinians' ability to feed their families

Rising unemployment, poverty and “economic suffocation” in the occupied Palestinian territory are posing acute challenges to food security, leaving many families entirely dependent on outside aid as well as threatening vital sectors of the Palestinian economy, United Nations agencies warned today. “The poorest families are now living a meagre existence totally reliant on assistance, with no electricity or heating and eating food prepared with water from bad sources. This is putting their long-term health at risk,” UN World Food Programme territory Director Arnold Vercken said. 

UN Secretary General praises unity accord

Calling the agreement between Fatah and Hamas on a Palestinian national unity government a “very important step forward,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said he looks forward to discussing the way ahead in resolving the Middle East conflict. “He hopes that this agreement will curb the violence, creating a better future for the Palestinian people,” a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said. “The Secretary-General looks forward to discussing the way ahead with the parties and regional and Quartet partners,” it added. 

UNESCO voices 'deep concern' at Israeli construction work in Jerusalem

The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voiced his “deep concern” today over construction work initiated by Israel in the Old City of Jerusalem and called for the suspension of any action that could exacerbate tensions. UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura noted in a statement that the Old City is protected by the UN Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972), and is inscribed on the UN World Heritage List and the List of World Heritage in Danger. 

UN SG calls for revival of "peace process"

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on Israel to lift all restrictions on moving goods and people in the occupied Palestinian territory and on Palestinians to take firm measures to cease rocket fire and other indiscriminate attacks against Israeli civilians as necessary steps to revive the peace process. “Without bold steps to guarantee security of the Palestinian and Israeli civilian populations, and without tangible measures that will enable the Palestinians to lead a normal economic and social life, the political process will not succeed,” he said in a message delivered by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Angela Kane. 

Ban Ki-moon looks for more than words from Friday's high-level Middle East meeting

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for more than mere words from tomorrow’s high-level diplomatic meeting in Washington of key partners seeking a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a two-state solution. Mr. Ban will be participating in his first meeting of the so-called diplomatic Quartet with top officials of the other three partners - United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov; and European Union (EU) High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, European Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. 

UN to hold seminar next week on aid to Palestinians in light of Israeli occupation

A United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People will be held in Qatar next week in an effort to ease the social, economic and humanitarian emergencies in the Occupied Palestinian Territory stemming from the Israeli occupation. “The role of donor countries and institutions, as well as that of other international actors is of vital importance,” the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People said in a statement on the meeting it is organizing on 5 and 6 February in Doha, the Qatari capital. It had been observing with concern the deepening economic and social crisis unfolding in the territory. 

UN calls for urgent aid to clean up toxic debris from summer war with Israel

Lebanon needs urgent international support to clean up widespread pollution caused by last summer’s war between Israel and Hizbollah, including a variety of toxic and health-hazardous substances as well as unexploded cluster bombs, the United Nations environmental agency warned today on the eve of a major donors’ conference. “The sheer scale of the debris is overwhelming existing municipal dump sites and waste management regimes,” the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said in releasing a report by 12 environmental experts who carried out an in-depth field assessment between late September and mid-October.