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OPT: UN committed to facilitating Middle East peace process - Ban Ki-moon

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today voiced concern about deteriorating conditions in the Middle East while pledging the full support of the United Nations for facilitating the peace process and providing relief aid in the region.

In comments to the press made before a meeting in New York with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Mr. Ban said, "The United Nations is committed to facilitate the peace process and committed to provide all humanitarian assistance in this regard."

Mr. Ban said the Prime Minister's visit "takes place at a crucially important time, when the whole international community has been gravely concerned about what has been happening" in the Middle East.

"The deteriorating situation in Gaza and in the region has been the source of great concern to all of us, and the failure of the national unity government in Palestine is also a great concern," said Mr. Ban, calling it a "setback in terms of humanitarian security and the peace process in the Middle East."

The Secretary-General added, "I know that Israel has legitimate concerns over security, placing challenges to them. At the same time, this is very serious for the United Nations - we have all the humanitarian concerns."

He noted that there are many Palestinian refugees who are living on daily assistance from the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) - "over 10,000 United Nations employees, who are mainly Palestinians, whose security and safety are in danger."

Mr. Ban called for a concerted response. "We need to overcome this crisis with common efforts, as well as wisdom. At the same time, I would urge all the parties concerned to exercise maximum restraint, and to resolve all the pending issues through peaceful means, through dialogue."