Israeli minister unable to attend COP26 due to wheelchair inaccessibility

A top UK official has apologised after Israel’s energy minister was unable to attend the COP26 climate conference on Monday as the transport offered to her was not wheelchair accessible.

Karine Elharrar, who is a wheelchair user, said she was “sad” she was not able to attend the event on Monday and hopes that lessons are learned from her experience.

UK ambassador to Israel Neil Wigan said he apologised “deeply and sincerely” for the incident.

Sir David Attenborough delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain, November 1, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman/Pool

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said he would be meeting with Ms Elharrar on Tuesday

Posting on social media, Mr Wigan said: “I am disturbed to hear that Karine Elharrar was unable to attend meetings at COP26. I apologise deeply and sincerely to the minister. We want a COP summit that is welcoming and inclusive to everyone.”

Ms Elharrar told an Israeli broadcaster that she could not reach the conference grounds because the only options to get there from the gathering area were to walk or board a shuttle that was not suited for a wheelchair.

She said: “I came to COP26 to meet with my counterparts around the world and promote a common struggle in the climate crisis.

“It is sad that the UN, which promotes accessibility for people with disabilities, in 2021, does not provide accessibility to its events. Hopefully the lessons learned will be learned so that tomorrow green energy promotion, removal of barriers and energy efficiency will be the things I will deal with.

“At the end of this day I would like to thank the Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom Tzipi Hotovely who did everything to solve the problem in real time and made sure there was someone to apologise in retrospect.”

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly added that he was “deeply disappointed and frustrated” that Ms Elharrar could not access the climate conference on Monday and said he would be meeting her on Tuesday.

“The COP venue is designed to be accessible for all,” he said in a post on social media.

Ms Elharrar said she hoped a solution would be found by Tuesday.

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