UN chief praises Netanyahu’s status quo commitment
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UN chief praises Netanyahu’s status quo commitment

Ban Ki-moon commends Israeli efforts to calm tensions on the Temple Mount ‘in word and in practice’

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon before a joint press conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, October 20, 2015. (Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon before a joint press conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, October 20, 2015. (Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO)

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has endorsed Israeli pledges to uphold the status quo on the Temple Mount.

A statement released Sunday said the UN head “welcomes the statement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterating Israel’s commitment to uphold the status quo at the Haram al Sharif/Temple Mount in Jerusalem in word and in practice.”

Ban said he hoped strengthened security arrangements between Israel and the Jordanian Waqf would bring calm to the contentious site and allow the sides to return to the negotiating table

“Only by restoring calm will all parties be able to refocus their efforts on renewing confidence and creating conditions on the ground, in the region and internationally for meaningful negotiations towards a two-state solution and to put an end to the occupation that began in 1967,” the statement said.

On Sunday Netanyahu praised a US-brokered plan to install video surveillance at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount holy site, saying it could help refute claims that Israel is trying to expand the Jewish presence there.

Speaking to the cabinet, Netanyahu said Israel has no plans to change the longstanding status quo at the site, where Jews are allowed to visit but not pray.

“The Temple Mount will be managed as it has been until now. The visits by Jews to the Temple Mount will be maintained, there will be no change, as with the prayer arrangements for the Muslims,” he said. “Israel has an interest in placing cameras around the Temple Mount” to counter the Palestinian claim that it is altering the status quo.

The surveillance system is the centerpiece of a series of steps announced by US Secretary of State John Kerry over the weekend.

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) holds a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II at the Royal Palace in the Jordanian capital, Amman on October 24, 2015. (AFP Photo/Pool/Carlo Allegri)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) holds a meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah II at the Royal Palace in the Jordanian capital, Amman, on October 24, 2015. (AFP Photo/Pool/Carlo Allegri)

Speaking in Amman on Saturday, Kerry said that Netanyahu had agreed to “an excellent suggestion by King Abdullah to provide 24-hour video coverage of all sites” in the compound. “This will provide comprehensive visibility and transparency and that could really be a game changer in discouraging anybody from disturbing the sanctity of the holy site.”

He said Israel was pledging to maintain the rules of worship at the site, which is holy to Jews and Muslims and is a key factor in the current tensions, and that Israeli and Jordanian authorities would meet about bolstering security.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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