The President of the General Assembly has welcomed the exchange of prisoners by Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, calling it a “positive development” that reinforces the importance of mediation in the peaceful settlement of disputes.
Yesterday, Hamas released Israeli Staff Sergeant Gilad Shalit, who had been held captive since June 2006, in exchange for the release of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners by Israel. The first 477 of those prisoners were released yesterday.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson yesterday, Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser thanked all those who worked tirelessly over many years to facilitate the release.
“This positive development reinforces the importance of mediation and negotiation in the peaceful settlement of disputes,” the statement said, noting that mediation is a subject that Mr. Al-Nasser has identified as one of the key focus areas during the current session of the Assembly.
He also said he hopes the exchange will help boost renewed efforts to find a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a sentiment also expressed yesterday by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said he hoped it would have a far-reaching and positive impact on the Middle East peace process.
Talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians have been stalled since late September 2010 following Israel’s refusal to extend a 10-month freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory.
That decision prompted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud 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.