UN chief urges restraint during Israeli-Palestinian proximity talks

13:50, March 25, 2010      

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks to the media after briefing his recent visit to the Middle East during a Security Council meeting at the UN headquarters in New York, the United States, March 24, 2010. Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday called on Israelis and Palestinians to start negotiations immediately and to take measures to avoid disruptions by extremists. (Xinhua/Shen Hong)

UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday called Israel's plans for 20 new housing units in East Jerusalem "illegal" and urged Israelis and Palestinians to refrain from any actions that could derail proximity talks.

The new housing units are in "the heart of Arab neighborhood," said Ban, who previously criticized the construction of 1,600 new settlements in East Jerusalem.

"Any unilateral actions which will undermine or prejudice the final outcome of these negotiations will have to be refrained," he told reporters after a closed-door session with the UN Security Council.

Israelis and Palestinians agreed to launch proximity talks brokered by Washington in early March, but the peace process quickly tumbled after Israel approved a proposal to construct the new housing units in East Jerusalem.

Ban acknowledged that simply getting both parties to enter the proximity talks has been "quite difficult."

The secretary-general said he is headed to Sirte, Libya on Thursday to attend the Summit of the League of Arab States to drum up support for the proximity talks, which should eventually lead to direct negotiations.

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