Please be assured that I take these issues very seriously, and I am extremely concerned about the plight of the Palestinians. I am a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Palestine and regularly attend briefings. I urgently want a solution and a just peace for all.
My Ministerial colleagues and I are committed to defending freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) for all, and to promoting respect between different religious and non-religious communities. Indeed, promoting the right to FoRB is one of the UK's longstanding human rights priorities.
Jerusalem is a holy city to so many, and the UK remains firmly of the view that maintaining the historic Status Quo is the only means of ensuring freedom of worship. All religious sites, including the Al Aqsa Mosque, should be treated with utmost respect in line with UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/75/258.
At the convergence of Passover, Ramadan and Easter, the UK calls for all parties to respect the historic Status Quo arrangements at Jerusalem's holy sites and cease all provocative action. In line with this, the UK values Jordan's important role as custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem and condemns the Israeli police violence at the Al Aqsa Mosque. When Israeli security forces conduct operations, they must ensure they are proportionate and in accordance with international law.
I appreciate the suggestions on further sanctions, and I will ensure that Ministers are aware of them. However, it is not appropriate for me to speculate on potential future designations, as to do so may undermine their effectiveness.
Furthermore, the position of the UK Government on this matter has remained constant since April 1950, when the UK extended de jure recognition to the State of Israel, but withheld recognition of sovereignty over Jerusalem pending a final determination of its status. The UK recognises Israel’s de facto authority over West Jerusalem but regards East Jerusalem as under Israeli occupation.
Let me also assure you that the UK is committed to the protection of media freedom around the world, including the safety of journalists when carrying out their critical work. HM Government (HMG) continues to stress the importance of the Israeli security forces providing appropriate protection to the Palestinian civilian population, as well as repeatedly calling for restraint in the use of force.
I also join Ministers in London and officials from the British Embassy in Tel Aviv, British Consulate in Jerusalem and at the UN in calling for all parties to maintain calm, avoid provocation, and uphold the status quo to ensure the safety and the security of all Christians, Jews, and Muslims, as HMG did at the UN Security Council on 5 January.
It is crucial that all parties work to reduce tensions and avoid unnecessary escalation. The UK is committed to playing its part in this regard and our officials continue to engage with the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships to support them to this end.