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UN Chief to Seek Wider Arab Support for Israeli-Palestinian Talks

  • Margaret Besheer

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he will ask Arab leaders to support indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians when he meets them in Sirte, Libya later this week.

Just back from a Middle East Quartet meeting in Moscow and a visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is set to depart Thursday for the Arab League summit in Libya. He told the U.N. Security Council Arab support is needed for indirect negotiations on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"I will urge them to support the proximity talks," said Ban Ki-moon. "It is crucial for the Arab countries to help create a favorable atmosphere in which the talks can succeed."

He said that while the course of peace is ultimately in the hands of the Israelis and the Palestinians, the regional and international community must play a supportive, insistent, and at times, catalytic role in reaching that goal.

"I felt a strong consensus on the way forward in Moscow, and the determination to review progress collectively and to work more closely with both parties and the region, including the Arab League," he said. "Regional support for the peace effort and the regional approach to peace as a whole are both crucial. I will carry these messages to Sirte, Libya."

Mr. Ban told reporters he understands Arab leaders are reluctant to support indirect talks, which should eventually lead to direct negotiations, and said he has been engaging directly with many Arab leaders, appealing to them to support the process.

He condemned Israel's announcement late Tuesday that it would build 20 new homes for settlers in the heart of an Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem as "unacceptable", and repeated the Quartet's call for a freeze on all settlement activity.

Mr. Ban urged both sides to reverse negative trends on the ground, including the blockade on Gaza and rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, saying confidence building measures are needed on both sides.