In Middle East, Ban urges stepped-up efforts to resolve Israeli-Palestinian conflict

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on Israelis and Palestinians to take steps that will build trust and ensure an environment conducive to sustained negotiations, voicing his hope that the nascent talks begun last month between the two sides will continue.

“This is a critical moment for Israel and the region,” Mr. Ban said in remarks during a joint press conference with President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem.

This is Mr. Ban’s fourth visit to Israel as Secretary-General, and it is part of his wider visit to the Middle East that includes stops in Jordan and the occupied Palestinian territories in an effort to help move the Israeli-Palestinian peace process forward.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators began preparatory talks at the start of last month in Amman under the facilitation of King Abdullah II of Jordan and that country’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.

In his meeting with Mr. Peres, the Secretary-General stressed the need for positive actions on the ground to contribute to an environment conducive to successful negotiations. He also discussed the status of the peace process with Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

In remarks prepared for a press encounter with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr. Ban said he is encouraged that Israelis and Palestinians have re-engaged in direct talks and remained hopeful that direct, frequent exchanges between the parties will continue.

“I also hope that Israel will be forthcoming with its own concrete proposals on territory and security, as called for by the Quartet [the diplomatic grouping consisting of the UN, European Union, Russia and the United States], in order to reach agreement on all final status issues before the end of this year. The success of the Amman talks is in the interest of both Israelis and Palestinians.”

The Secretary-General commended Mr. Netanyahu’s commitment to a two-State solution, adding that this is the moment to display further leadership to ensure that negotiations continue.

“A credible political horizon is imperative for the emergence of a Palestinian State living in peace and security side-by-side with Israel,” he said. “The consequences of inaction would be grave for either side.”

Following his meeting with Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Ban stated that a viable Palestinian State is long overdue.

“I continue to believe that a two-State solution can be achieved – and that the way to achieve it is through negotiations that resolve permanent status issues such as borders, security, refugees and Jerusalem,” he said in the remarks prepared for the press conference in Ramallah with Mr. Abbas.

He also commended the Palestinian leader for the State-building efforts of the past several years and discussed with him ongoing tensions, including continued settlement activity and settler violence.

While in Ramallah, the Secretary-General also met with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Foreign Minister Ryad Malki, as well as with Palestinian civil society groups and graduates of the UN’s annual media training programme for Palestinian journalists.