Lamenting the lack of progress in the Middle East peace process, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today stressed that it is important now, more than ever, for Israelis and Palestinians to engage in real, genuine and meaningful negotiations
During a meeting in Rome with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Mr. Ban added that achieving the goal of an independent, viable Palestinian state was long overdue, according to information provided by a United Nations spokesperson.
The Secretary-General thanked Mr. Abbas for outlining Palestinian thoughts and plans on working toward statehood and on what was required for a return to negotiations.
Talks between the two sides have been stalled since late September following Israel’s refusal to extend a 10-month freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory. That decision prompted Mr. Abbas to withdraw from direct talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which had only resumed a few weeks earlier after a two-year hiatus.
Mr. Ban said during today’s meeting that he knew it was the Palestinian Authority’s priority to return to the negotiating table.
While in the Italian capital, the Secretary-General also met with Xi Jinping, the Vice President of China, with whom he discussed a wide range of topics, including the recent Group of Eight (G-8) summit, Sudan, the Middle East and North Africa, the Korean Peninsula, Myanmar and support for development.
Mr. Ban’s visit to Rome coincides with celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of the country’s unification. In a toast at a dinner hosted by President Giorgio Napolitano, the Secretary-General hailed Italy as an “extraordinary partner” for the UN.
In particular, he noted the country’s leading role in the fight against global hunger, as a staunch champion of human rights and as a major contributor to the Organization’s efforts to promote peace and security.
Some 2,000 Italians serve under the blue flag of UN peacekeeping in dangerous missions. Just last week, six Italian peacekeepers were wounded after their vehicle came under attack in southern Lebanon.
“We pray for their speedy recovery,” Mr. Ban said. “We offer our deepest sympathies to the families – and our profound gratitude for their service and sacrifice.”