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COP26: Israel minister gains belated access to global gathering

Energy Minister Karine Elharrar attends summit after complaint that transportation options for delegates were inaccessible to wheelchairs
Israeli Energy Minister Karine Elharrar and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at COP26 (Social media)

Karine Elharrar, Israel’s energy minister, entered the COP26 summit in Glasgow with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday, a day after she was unable to attend because transportation options were not wheelchair accessible, she said.

Elharrar was given the option to either walk or take a shuttle bus to participate in the summit on Monday, but neither were suitable for wheelchair users, she said.

“I came to COP26 to meet with my counterparts around the world and promote a common struggle in the climate crisis,” Elharrar tweeted on Monday.

“It is sad that the UN, which promotes accessibility for people with disabilities, in 2021, does not provide accessibility to its events.”

She added that she had hoped to focus on “green energy promotion, removal of barriers and energy efficiency” and not accessibility to the conference. 

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A spokesman at Israel's embassy in Britain told Reuters that organisers were given "all of the neccessary details" to prepare for Elhrarr's attendance in recent weeks.

British officials expressed concern over the incident including Neil Wigan, UK ambassador to Israel, who said he was "disturbed" to hear what had happened.

"I apologise deeply and sincerely to the minister,” Wigan tweeted. “We want a COP Summit that is welcoming and inclusive to everyone."

James Cleverly, the UK’s minister for the Middle East, tweeted on Monday that he was “deeply disappointed and frustrated” - and then met with Elharrar on Tuesday. 

Many observers expressed concern for other officials and delegates with disabilities at the conference. 

The United Nations’ global conference on climate change kicked off on Monday, gathering world leaders and delegates from around the world, aiming to reach consensus over carbon emissions.

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