Secretary-General of UNO departs for high-level talks to broker Middle East peace and calls on Israel and Hamas to cease hostilities immediately. Talks to include all regional powers, except Iran and Hamas.
“My goal is to step up the pace of our joint diplomatic efforts and ensure that urgent humanitarian assistance reaches those in need. It is one thing to speak to world leaders, as I have done daily in seeking to resolve this crisis. And it is another thing to be present oneself,” he stated in New York on the eve of his departure.
After 18 days of hostilities which have caused a shocking number of civilian casualties, he declared: “To both sides, I say: Just stop, now. Too many people have died. There has been too much civilian suffering. Too many people, Israelis and Palestinians, live in daily fear of their lives. And in Gaza, the very foundation of society is being destroyed: people's homes, civic infrastructure, public health facilities and schools.”
For Ban Ki-Moon, the only way towards a durable ceasefire is an immediate cessation of hostilities, an end to the Israeli offensive and also to the firing of rockets by Hamas, the opening of border crossings and the end to smuggling weapons into Gaza.
“Innocent civilians, whether in the Occupied Territory or southern Israel, cannot live in a state of fear or under a de facto state of siege. Let normal life resume. That is the only path to lasting peace,” stated the Secretary-General.
On Wednesday Ban Ki-Moon is set to meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. After this he will meet King Abdullah II of Jordan, in Amman. On Thursday, he will speak to Israeli PM Ehud Olmert, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defence Minister Ehud Barak and then, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
The talks will also include other regional powers, namely Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, and Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri, before visiting the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Naqoura, and Syria. Finally, the last leg of the talks will be in Kuwait, where the meeting of the Arab League will take place.
“Most of all, I want to demonstrate my deep concern and empathy for the innocents caught in these terrible circumstances, both in Israel and the Occupied Territory. More than 900 Palestinians have died. About 4,000 more have been injured. They have no place to hide, no place to run,” stated the Secretary-General, adding that it is “tragic and heartbreaking to see so many civilians having been killed and suffering.”
Rescuers found the pilot of one of the two Su-34 fighters that had collided in midair in the Far East on January 18