Last updated: 16 May, 2013

Ban presses Netanyahu over Jerusalem holy sites

UN leader Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over restricting access to holy sites in East Jerusalem, a UN spokesman said Thursday.

Ban spoke with Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on efforts to relaunch the deadlocked peace process, said deputy UN spokesman Eduardo del Buey.

Ban pressed Netanyahu after several days of troubles in East Jerusalem. Police on Thursday closed the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound to non-Muslim visitors in what they said was an effort to end recent Palestinian unrest.

Police used stun grenades and water cannons on Wednesday against Palestinians who hurled rocks during protests for the anniversary of Israel’s foundation in 1948.

“Regarding recent tensions in East Jerusalem, and more particularly restrictions of access to Muslim and Christian holy sites, the secretary general conveyed his concerns to the Israeli authorities,” said del Buey.

Ban urged Israel “to abide by its obligations under international humanitarian law.

“The secretary general stressed to both leaders the importance of respect for the religious freedom of all, and that worshippers of all faiths should have access to their holy sites,” the spokesman said.

Ban “strongly encouraged” Netanyahu and Abbas to resume direct talks frozen since September 2010. The UN leader “expressed his hope that they will lead to a substantial peace initiative soon,” said the spokesman.