UN's Ban urges Israel to halt Jewish settlements

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Palestine and Israel to restart negotiations.

UN's Ban urges Israel to halt Jewish settlements

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Palestine and Israel on Saturday to restart negotiations as world powers stepped up diplomatic efforts to push the process forward.

Ban also called on the Jewish state to stop settlement building in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. But he said the holy city should be the capital for both Israel and a future Palestinian state.

"We have to get negotiations under way," Ban said after meeting Western-backed Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a limited, 10-month freeze on settlement building in the West Bank in November despite international calls for complete freeze. Meanwhile, the moratorium did not include territory it captured in a 1967 war and annexed to Jerusalem.

The United Nations, along with the United States, Russia and the European Union, make up a quartet of Middle East mediators.

The group met in Moscow on Friday and suggested indirect mutual talks between Israel and the Palestinians may start in the coming days. The sides have not engaged in negotiations in more than a year.

Also expected in the region this week are Quartet representative Tony Blair and U.S. envoy George Mitchell.

The latest big obstacle to the talks came last week when Israel announced, during a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, that it would build 1,600 new housing units in a part of Jerusalem it had annexed unilaterally.

The announcement angered Washington and, under pressure, Netanyahu proposed mutual confidence-building measures by Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Ban is scheduled to meet Israeli leaders on Sunday and also said he would cross into the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, which is under a blockade led by Israel and Egypt.

"I will go to Gaza tomorrow to express my solidarity with the plight of Palestinian people there and to underscore the needs to help," he said.

Reuters

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Mart 2010, 14:41
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