Ban Ki-moon regrets Mideast peace goals not achieved

November 12th, 2008 - 10:33 am ICT by IANS  

United Nations, Nov 12 (IANS) UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says he regrets that the goals set by the Annapolis conference on peaceful resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict could not be achieved by the end of this year.”It is regrettable that Annapolis has not been able to achieve the agreement by the end of December. It is unlikely, as I said, that there will be an agreement by the end of December,” Ban told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York Tuesday.

At the same time, Ban insisted that the Annapolis process could not be described as “a failure”.

At a US-sponsored Middle East Peace Conference held at Annapolis in Maryland last year, Israeli and Palestinian leadership had agreed to reach a comprehensive peace treaty by the end of this year.

However, since the Annapolis peace conference in November 2007, not much progress has been made in this regard and the sharp differences between the two main parties of the conflict persist. This prompted the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to acknowledge last week that reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal by the end of the year is not possible.

Regretting that the much anticipated peace agreement could not be reached before the self-imposed deadline of this year, Ban, however, drew comfort from the fact that the leaders of both the countries have, nonetheless, agreed to continue with their negotiations.

“These will be ongoing, continuous negotiations and one that all Quartet members have supported, even during the transition in the United States and in Israel,” Ban said, adding that this is a very encouraging signal.

Asserting that the UN would continue to extend its full support to any peace process in the region, Ban said: “We were told by the parties that their negotiation has been promising and substantial, but because of the confidentiality of these very delicate negotiations, we didn’t discuss at length on this matter.”

The secretary general was in the Egyptian Red Sea Resort of Sharm el Sheikh last week where the Middle East Quartet - comprising of the US, European Union, Russia and other key stake holders including Israel and Palestine - had another round of discussion on the Middle East peace process. At the end of the meeting, all sides expressed desire to continue with the negotiations.

“One of the principles is that until everything is agreed, nothing is agreed. They have agreed to that principle. Therefore it may not be possible to announce, one by one, whenever there has been some agreement, so I think you need to be patient on this matter,” Ban said in response to a question on the issue.

Observing that the Quartet members were impressed by the commitment of the parties to pursue negotiations and remain focused on the goal of a final peace treaty, on all core issues, the secretary general said he expected the negotiations to continue uninterrupted through the coming period of transition in the US, which is playing a key role in the process.

Ban said all parties will be looking to the incoming Barack Obama administration to engage early, as a matter of highest priority.

“The goal remains clear to all: an end of conflict, an end of occupation, a two state
solution,” he said.

Referring to his meeting with the Quartet, Ban said: “We also agreed on the urgent need to improve the situation on the ground, and to support the work of the Palestinian government to build security and improve living conditions.

This requires action on roadmap commitments, including on settlements, as well as a cessation of actions such as house demolitions that are contrary to international law or alter the status quo, including in East Jerusalem, Ban emphasized.

“We were acutely conscious of the distressing conditions in Gaza,” Ban said.

Urging the Hamas and all Palestinian factions to respond positively to Egypt’s unity efforts, Ban said: “I call for the calm to be respected. I call on Israel to ease the severe closure of Gaza by allowing sufficient and predictable supplies to reach the population, ensuring access for humanitarian workers, and facilitating stalled UN projects.”

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