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UN Chief Calls for Peaceful Resolution of Gaza Crisis


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urges Israelis and Palestinians to show restraint and to resolve their complex political issues through dialogue. The Secretary-General was speaking in Geneva, where the crisis in Gaza is under discussion at a special session of the UN Human Rights Council. Lisa Schlein has this report for VOA.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he is deeply concerned about the serious situation unfolding in Gaza.

He says he understands Israel has legitimate security concerns and has a right to defend itself against the rockets fired from Gaza. At the same time, he says Israel should not take collective punishment against the civilian population.

"The economic situation has been seriously deteriorating," he noted. "And, again at the same time, I would urge these people to also respect the security and safety of the Israelis. They should stop immediately firing rockets."

Mr. Ban Ki-moon says care should be taken not to scuttle the newly restarted Middle East peace process.

The UN Human Rights Council is currently holding a special session on the Gaza crisis. This is the Council's fourth special session related to Israel's actions in the Palestinian territory.

The UN chief says, while he values the Council's focus on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, he would like to see it pay equally close attention to other troubled parts of the world.

"I would also appreciate the Council would be looking with the same level of attention and urgency on all other matters around the world," he added. "There are still many areas where the human rights are abused and not properly protected."

The Council also has held special sessions on the conflict in Sudan's province of Darfur and on Burma.

Earlier in the day, the Secretary-General presided over a memorial ceremony for 18 UN staff members who died in a suicide bombing of the UN headquarters in the Algerian capital, Algiers, December 11.

He told a news conference he was setting up an independent panel of experts to review the safety and security of UN personnel and premises worldwide. He says it is important to fight international terrorism and prevent such acts from occurring.

"The bombing in Algiers strengthened my resolve and commitment to work tirelessly to put an end to terrorism," he said.

After a stop at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Mr. Ban Ki-moon is going on to Rwanda, the site of the 1994 genocide. Then he will attend the African Union summit in Addis Ababa where, he says, Darfur, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ivory Coast will be high on the agenda.

While there, he hopes to meet with Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir to make a renewed push for peace in Darfur.

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