United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will visit Israel and the disputed territories in late August for his first Holy Land trip since becoming the U.N.’s leader.
Guterres will hold talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and visit a U.N.-run aid program in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon said he welcomes the U.N. chief’s upcoming visit, calling it an opportunity for Guterres to “build a relationship” with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“We are very happy about this visit,” Danon said, AFP reported. “It’s a great opportunity for the secretary general to experience Israel, to meet the leaders of Israel and to understand the challenges that Israel faces day in and day out.”
Danon said Guterres, a former prime minister of Portugal, “is experienced. He has been to Israel in the past. He knows the complexity of the issues. He is not someone who comes to our region and has no clue about what is happening.”
Since taking over as U.N. leader at the beginning of this year, Guterres has attempted to take a more evenhanded approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after years of disproportionate criticism of Israel by the world body.
Last March, Guterres forced the withdrawal of a report accusing Israel of apartheid against the Palestinians, prompting the resignation of the official who headed the agency behind the report. Further, Guterres has condemned critics of Israel as anti-Semites and has affirmed Jerusalem’s Jewish roots.
But Guterres has also condemned Israel’s “occupation” in the disputed territories, claiming it causes a “heavy humanitarian and development burden” for the Palestinians.