UN chief, Israeli deputy PM discuss Middle East process

15:47, July 31, 2010      

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon on Friday met with visiting Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to discuss the Middle East process, stressing the need to ease the closures in Gaza.

A brief UN statement, issued by Ban's spokesman after the meeting, said that they discussed a range of issues, including Lebanon and the situation in Gaza, in which the secretary-general "underscored the importance of a further easing of the closures."

"The secretary-general stressed the need to continue Israel's restraint on settlement activity and to extend it to East Jerusalem, among other steps that could help efforts to proceed to meaningful direct talks between the parties," said the statement.

The meeting between Ban and Barak also included a "separate private conversation," the statement said.

Just last week, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe told the Security Council that Israeli- Palestinian negotiations are at a "critical juncture" again in achieving a two-State solution, which means an independent Palestine to live in peace with a secure Israel.

On Thursday, the Arab League (AL) agreed in principle to endorse direct peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel, but left the time for holding the talks to the discretion of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Western countries have been exerting pressure on the Palestinians to shift immediately from indirect talks to face-to- face negotiations with Israel, which they hold is the only sensible way to make progress.

However, Abbas insisted on the necessity of progress in indirect talks before moving to direct negotiations, repeating on the eve of the meeting that he will not accept direct talks until progress is achieved on security and border issues.

He also listed settlement freeze and recognition of the peace process references as conditions for direct talks.

Source: Xinhua


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