The UN’s new peace coordinator for the Middle East asked Israel on Tuesday to ensure it helps Palestinians receive COVID-19 vaccinations.
Veteran Norwegian diplomat Tor Wennesland, who was appointed last month, credited Israel for working with the UN during the pandemic to ensure equipment and supplies were delivered across the West Bank, as well as in East Jerusalem and Gaza.
“It is important that the same level of engagement and cooperation be sustained with regard to the delivery of vaccines,” Wennesland said during a video call with Security Council ministers.
Israel has launched a mass vaccination campaign and has given a first anti-coronavirus shot to more than 2.5 million inhabitants - more than a quarter of its population.
“The UN continues to encourage Israel to help address the priority needs of Palestinians... and to support COVID-19 vaccine availability more generally,” Wennesland said.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki accused Israel of not providing any vaccinations to Palestinian people.
But Israel’s ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan said such claims were “false and grotesque.”
“Israel is leading a successful vaccination campaign that includes all parts of Israeli society,” he said, adding that the Palestinian Authority is responsible for the health care of its own population.
Israel is deploying vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, while the Palestinian Authority is separately purchasing the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.
“They intend to purchase vaccines from the Russian government and Israel has announced it will facilitate that transfer,” Maliki said.