A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday denied that Israel had agreed to allow Palestinian refugees fleeing violence in Syria to enter the West Bank, directly contradicting claims made by PA President Mahmoud Abbas to that effect.
Abbas told press in Cairo January 9 that he had appealed Israel through the UN to allow 150,000 Syrian-Palestinian refugees fleeing violence at the Yarmouk refugee camp to enter the West Bank. Abbas claimed Israel surprisingly agreed to the refugees’ entry on condition that they all forgo the right of return, a condition he rejected out of hand.
Abbas repeated this claim during an interview with Lebanese news channel Al-Mayadeen last Friday, saying the message was transferred by UN representative to the Middle East Robert Serry to chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat. An official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office adamantly denied that any such agreement was given by Israel.
Corroborating the Israeli version of events, Eduardo del Buey, deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, confirmed that no letter was transferred between Israel and the Palestinians via the UN.
“The United Nations has not received any letter from the Government of Israel, nor conveyed any message to the Palestinian Authority,” del Buay wrote the Times of Israel, responding to an e-mail query on the matter.
According to del Buey, Ban believes that Palestinian refugees living in Syria should be assisted there by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), a UN organ specifically tasked with aiding Palestinian refugees.
“The United Nations needs to get adequate resources to do this work,” del Buey wrote.
“The Secretary-General has appealed to all countries to provide assistance to Palestinian refugees fleeing the conflict, as we do for Syrian refugees. Borders must be kept open,” he added.