Mohammed Shtayyeh: Israel limiting our control over coronavirus

Second Palestinian dies in pandemic

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh gestures during an interview with Reuters in his office in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, June 27, 2019 (photo credit: RANEEN SAWAFTA/ REUTERS)
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh gestures during an interview with Reuters in his office in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, June 27, 2019
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh has again accused Israel of restricting Palestinian efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Shtayyeh made his allegation during a phone conversation on Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Meanwhile, the PA government announced on Friday the death of a second Palestinian who had been diagnosed with the coronavirus, Nashat Naji al-Mudallal, 55, from the village of Saida, north of Tulkarem.
Last month, a woman in her sixties from the village of Biddu, south of Ramallah, became the first Palestinian to die of the disease.
The number of Palestinians who have tested positive for the virus stood at 268 by mid-Saturday. Forty-six patients have recovered from the disease.
“Despite our early response with measures that curbed the pandemic’s spread, the reality of the occupation and the denial of our right to exercise sovereignty over our lands and borders have been imposing additional challenges that are limiting our control over it,” Shtayyeh told the Russian foreign minister.
On Thursday, Shtayyeh made the same charge during a video conference meeting with foreign diplomats.
Shtayyeh and Lavrov discussed Russian assistance in support of the Palestinian response to the coronavirus, to include providing medicines and equipment, and preparing the health sector in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, said a statement released by the PA premier’s office.
“The two parties asserted the necessity of restoring Palestinian national unity, noting that the coronavirus and Israeli elections have hindered the holding of Palestinian elections, which constitutes a gateway to ending the division,” the statement added.
Russia had previously acted as a mediator between the PA and Hamas in a bid to end the dispute between the two parties.
In September 2019, PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced his intention to hold long overdue elections for the Palestinian presidency and parliament. However, the PA and Hamas have since failed to reach agreement on holding them.
Abbas has said he will not call new elections unless Israel allows the vote to take place also in east Jerusalem.
During Friday’s phone conversation, Shtayyeh and Lavrov also discussed Israeli plans to apply Israeli law to some parts of the West Bank.
Shtayyeh warned that the formation of an Israeli government that endorses the “annexation” of parts of the West Bank would lead to undermining United Nations resolutions and the 2002 Arab Peace initiative and to ending the two-state solution.
“In this context, the two sides talked about holding a session for the Quartet (US, Russia, EU and UN) to discuss the related Palestinian proposal for an international peace conference based on UN resolutions and international legitimacy,” the PA prime minister’s statement said.
PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat also warned Israel against “annexing” any part of the West Bank. Erekat said he had an “in-depth conversation” with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Luxembourg, Jean Asselborn, and stressed the need for an international coalition to stop the “annexation plan of Palestinian territory.”
Erekat said he also discussed the issue with Emmanuel Bonne, foreign policy advisor to the French president, and told him that Israel’s intention would have “grave consequences on peace and security.” 
Another senior PLO official, Ahmed Majdalani, warned on Saturday that any Israeli “annexation” of parts of the West Bank would “undermine the foundations of the peace process.”
He said that Israel and the US administration are exploiting the world’s preoccupation with the coronavirus pandemic to proceed with plans to apply Israeli law to the Jordan Valley and the northern part of the Dead Sea.