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January 6, 10

NEWS / Ban discusses Middle East peace process with senior Israeli, US officials

6 January 2010 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has held talks with senior Israeli and American officials on the Middle East peace process, highlighting the need to overcome hurdles to resume Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
During a telephone call yesterday with Ehud Barak, Israel’s Defence Minister, they conferred on the situation in Gaza, following last year’s military campaign.

The three-week Israeli military offensive known as Operation Cast Lead – which had the stated aim of ending rocket attacks by militants operating in Gaza – left over 1,400 people dead, injured 5,000 others and reduced homes, schools, hospitals and marketplaces to rubble.

During his conversation with the Israeli official, the Secretary-General voiced appreciation for the fact that limited amounts of glass are now being allowed into the area to repair homes, “but pressed for further imports of needed material for reconstruction,” according to a readout provided by his spokesperson.

The two men also discussed the “urgent need” to surmount obstacles to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

That topic also topped talks between Mr. Ban and United States Envoy George Mitchell during their meeting yesterday, which also focused on the current state of the Middle East peace process and the role of the diplomatic Middle East Quartet, comprising the United Nations, the European Union, the US and Russia.

“The Secretary-General expressed his appreciation and support for US efforts,” the readout said, adding that Mr. Ban also voiced concern over the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the need for reconstruction to begin.

In a statement marking the one-year anniversary of the start of Operation Cast Lead, he stressed that there is “a sense of hopelessness in Gaza today for 1.5 million Palestinians, half of whom are under eighteen,” with their "fate and the well-being of Israelis [being] intimately connected.”

Mr. Ban called on Israel to end the “unacceptable and counterproductive blockade” of Gaza, while simultaneously urging Hamas to “bring an end to violence.”

The anniversary, he said, “is a reminder of the bitter consequences of the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to which there is and can be no military solution.

"The urgent priority of all Israeli and Palestinian leaders, the region, and the international community as a whole must be the achievement of a two State solution.”




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