U.N. chief ‘pessimistic’ on Israel-Palestinians

British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said council members were ‘struck by the pessimistic tone’ Ban took during the closed video briefing

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U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon offered the Security Council a grim assessment on Wednesday of prospects for defusing the latest wave of violence between Israel and the Palestinians, a British diplomat said.

British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said council members were “struck by the pessimistic tone” Ban took during the closed video briefing.

Ban spoke to council members after meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders during a surprise trip to the Middle East.

Rycroft said Ban “thought there was a very wide gap” between the two sides “both on the short term, on how to deescalate, and on the longer term to go back to a genuine political process leading to a two-state solution.”

Rycroft said the U.N. chief told the council that “all of those with influence need to use it to de-escalate the situation.”

The unrest began last month after clashes erupted at occupied Jerusalem’s holiest site, the al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Rycroft said it was “very important that the whole international community including the Security Council use whatever is in our power to halt the escalation of violence.”

But he expected no concrete action to emerge from a Security Council ministerial meeting on the Middle East planned for Thursday, though he added “we continue to live and hope.”

Ban’s briefing coincided with his decision to send the council a 42-page document on U.N. historical precedents for “the protection” of people.

It was prepared by the U.N. Secretariat in response to a letter on July 21, 2014 from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas requesting that “the territory of the state of Palestine be placed under an international protection system by the United Nations,” with the central aim of “ensuring the protection of the Palestinian people.”

The Palestinians have been pressing for the report to be sent to the Security Council. In a letter on Wednesday, the secretary-general said he decided to share the report with the council in response to inquiries and “the interest that has been generated.”