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May 10, 10

NEWS / Ban welcomes start of Israeli-Palestinian proximity talks

10 May 2010 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that he is encouraged by the start of Israeli-Palestinian proximity talks, voicing hope that they will lead to direct negotiations between the two sides.

According to media reports, it was announced yesterday that indirect talks mediated by the United States have begun between Israel and the Palestinians.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson last night, Mr. Ban commended the US initiative, expressing hope that “the parties are able to make progress.”

The start of the proximity talks comes after meetings between the two sides were halted after Israel launched an offensive against Gaza at the end of 2008 with the stated aim of trying to end rocket attacks against it. The three-week conflict left more than 1,400 people dead, injured 5,000 others and reduced homes, schools, hospitals and marketplaces to rubble.

The Secretary-General has long stressed that there is no alternative to a two-State solution, and earlier this year said that he is committed to helping the sides reach a settlement in the next two years.

“I am aware that regional confidence in the Israeli Government is very low, but there is no alternative to getting the parties to the negotiating table and testing their commitment,” he told leaders gathered at the Arab League Summit in Libya in March.

At that gathering, Mr. Ban also underscored that “for the United Nations, Gaza is a priority.”

During his visit to Gaza, also in March, he noted that Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, instituted for what Israel called security reasons after Hamas took over power there in 2007, “causes unacceptable suffering of human beings,” with the half of the area’s population that is under the age of 18 suffering the most.

“The policy is also counter-productive,” he emphasized. “It prevents legitimate commerce and encourages smuggling. It undercuts moderates and empowers extremists.”




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