Robert Serry
Robert SerryFlash 90

Israel on Tuesday accused the United Nations (UN) Mideast peace envoy of stoking tensions between Israel and Christians over a dispute that arose during Easter celebrations in Jerusalem.

UN envoy Robert Serry said he and other diplomats had joined an Easter procession at the invitation of Jerusalem's Palestinian Christian community but were denied access to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher at a police checkpoint.

A letter to UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon from Israel's UN ambassador Ron Prosor - made public Tuesday by the Israeli foreign ministry - said that on the day of the Holy Fire ceremony on April 19, the narrow lanes of Jerusalem's walled Old City were packed with worshippers and crowd control was a major challenge.

"Against this backdrop, and instead of taking constructive actions to help mitigate the sensitive situation, Robert Serry, the UN's special envoy to the Middle East, took disruptive steps that exacerbated tensions on the ground," the letter said.

"It is unfortunate that a UN official abused his position and the UN platform to express personal opinions."

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of Christianity's holiest sites, is shared by six denominations -- the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Egyptian Copts, Syrian Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox.

Serry said at the time that the group he was accompanying was stopped at a security checkpoint before the church "despite earlier assurances...of unhindered access."

"The Israeli police refused to allow such entry claiming they had orders to that effect," he said.