The Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), António Guterres, commented on Saturday, Febuary 2, responded to the joint statement issued by the Foreign Ministers of Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey following Israel’s decision not to renew the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH).
A statement issued by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, said that Guterres “is grateful to the TIPH’s contributing countries and the service of their respective observers over the past 22 years. He further hopes that an agreement can be found by the parties to preserve the TIPH’s long-standing and valuable contribution to conflict prevention and the protection of Palestinians in Hebron.”
The statement added, “The Secretary-General continues to engage with relevant Member States and the parties on the ground to ensure the protection, safety, and well-being of civilians. He reiterates his commitment to the two-state solution and to safeguarding the principles and vision enshrined in the Oslo framework, relevant United Nations resolutions, and other applicable agreements.”
In addition, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey, the five nations which contributed civilian personnel to the TIPH since its inception in 1997, expressed regret on Friday at Israel’s decision to end the mandate of the force and expel its 64 members after more than 20 years of monitoring in the city of Hebron in the southern part of the West Bank.
“We regret the unilateral decision by the Israeli government not to renew the mandate of the force after 31 January 2019,” they said in a joint statement. The Israeli decision to withdraw from the agreement with the PLO and thereby terminate the TIPH constitutes a departure from the Oslo II Accord of 1995. We took note that the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization which signed the agreement with Israel to establish TIPH on January 21, 1997) signed the agreement to renew the TIPH mandate. We are prepared to continue the Mission if requested by both parties.”
The statement continued, “We are concerned that the Israeli government’s decision undermines one of the few established mechanisms for conflict resolution between Israelis and Palestinians and may therefore have a negative impact on the situation. In this regard, we stress Israel’s obligations under international law to protect the people in Hebron and in other parts of the occupied Palestinian territory, and its duty to ensure accountability for violations thereof.”
The foreign ministers rejected claims made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his decision not to renew the force’s mandate was because it worked against Israel’s interests, stressing that such claims are unacceptable, saying that TIPH had “diligently fulfilled its mandate as requested by both parties, and thus contributed to preventing violence and promoting a feeling of security for the population in Hebron. For the past 22 years, both parties have renewed the TIPH’s mandate every sixth months. The contributing countries have supported the Mission to fulfill its mandate at the parties’ request, and in the parties’ interest. We therefore strongly object to any claim that the TIPH has acted against Israel. Such claims are unacceptable and ungrounded. Only a negotiated two-state solution can create a durable peace between the parties, with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security within internationally recognized borders.”