Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today voiced disappointment at Israel’s move to not extend the moratorium on the building of Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, and expressed concern over provocative actions taking place on the ground.
He recalled last week’s statement by the Middle East Quartet – the United Nations, the European Union, Russia and the United States – which he said reflected the united call of the international community urging Israel to extend the settlement restraint policy.
Mr. Ban reiterated that settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law. He urged Israel to fulfil its obligation under the Roadmap obligation to freeze settlement activity.
“The Secretary-General supports ongoing efforts to find a way to continue peace talks in an environment conducive to progress. This is the only route to a viable Palestinian State living in peace with a secure Israel,” a statement issued by his spokesperson said.
Mr. Ban later expressed his disappointment directly to Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman when the two met on the sidelines of the ongoing General Assembly high-level debate at UN Headquarters in New York.
During the meeting, Mr. Ban reiterated his belief that direct negotiations are the only way for Israel and the Palestinians to resolve all final status issues.
The Secretary-General and Mr. Liberman also discussed the situation in the Gaza Strip, and reviewed other regional issues, including Lebanon.
At a separate meeting, Mr. Ban exchanged views on the direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority with the United States envoy for the Middle East, George Mitchell, who informed the Secretary-General that he would be travelling to the region for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Mr. Mitchell said the US was continuing its efforts to determine a course of action that would sustain direct talks.
Last Tuesday, the Quartet urged Israel to continue its settlement moratorium in the occupied Palestinian territory in the interests of resumed negotiations between the sides and called on Arab States to support the talks.
Voicing support for the first face-to-face talks in 19 months, a statement issued after a high-level meeting of the Quartet reiterated the goal of ending the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and creating “an independent, democratic, contiguous, and viable Palestinian State” living side by side in peace and security with Israel.
“Noting that mutual trust and confidence are critical to successful negotiations, the Quartet reiterated its call on Israel and the Palestinians to promote an environment conducive to progress, including by refraining from provocative actions and inflammatory rhetoric,” the statement said.
“The Quartet noted that the commendable Israeli settlement moratorium instituted last November has had a positive impact and urged its continuation. The Quartet recalled that unilateral actions by either party, including settlement activity, cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community,” it added.
The ongoing Israeli-Palestinian direct negotiations were among the topics discussed in the Secretary-General’s tête-à-tête with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
During their meeting today, Mrl Ban also voiced hope that the direct talks would help to bring about a comprehensive regional peace soon.