Wrapping up Middle East visit, Ban voices hope 2013 will be ‘decisive’ year for peace

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) at a joint press conference in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. UN Photo/Rick BajornasSecretary-General Ban Ki-moon, on a visit to Jerusalem, stressed his full support for direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, and voiced the hope that this year will be a decisive one for peace in the Middle East. “I am encouraged that Israelis and Palestinians have re-engaged in direct dialogue. But for these negotiations to have a chance at success, they need to be meaningful,” Mr. Ban said at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I know that when a problem has remained an open wound for decades, causing hardships and casualties on both sides, it might sometimes seem that the problem will never be solved,” he continued.

“Dealing [with] the symptom might seem easier in the short term. It takes courage, vision, and creativity to decide that the long-term cost of that problem is actually too high. That is what is happening now with the Israeli-Palestinian issue.”

Direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians stalled in September 2010, after Israel refused to extend its freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory. Following recent efforts by United States Secretary of State John Kerry, the two sides resumed negotiations this week.

“I am here to urge all the leaders to continue along the path to peace and to underscore a shared commitment to work together to make 2013 a decisive year for Israeli-Palestinian peace and peace in the region,” stated Mr. Ban, who is visiting Israel for the sixth time as Secretary-General.

In addition to Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Ban also met with Israeli President Shimon Peres. Speaking to reporters along with Mr. Peres, the Secretary-General noted that direct negotiations remain the “single most credible path” to a solution.

He also urged all parties to avoid actions that risk undermining the negotiations. “Both sides need to sustain an environment conducive for the peace process to move forward. People need to see improvements on the ground, including economic progress for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and greater security for Israelis and Palestinians.”

Mr. Ban also held meetings with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon and the Leader of the Opposition, Shelly Yachimovich. A separate meeting with Ambassador Martin Indyk, the US Special Envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations, covered the resumption of direct negotiations between the parties.

In addition, Mr. Ban took part in an Israeli Model UN event at the UN headquarters in Jerusalem, at which he said students everywhere should have both passion and compassion, and lift their vision beyond boundaries. While at the UN headquarters, the Secretary-General met the new head of the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), Major-General Michael Finn.

Also today, Mr. Ban visited the grave site on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who the UN chief noted lived through the war to become “a champion of peace and security” for Israel and the region.

“As Secretary-General of the United Nations it is a great honour for me to work together with the people of Israel to build upon his legacy,” Mr. Ban said, adding that he hoped that both parties, Israelis and Palestinians, will remember Mr. Rabin’s legacy and realize a two-State solution.

Mr. Ban’s two-day visit to the region also took him to Jordan and Palestine.


Activities of Secretary-General in State of Palestine, 15 August (16 August 2013)
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Ramallah, in the State of Palestine, on the afternoon of Thursday, 15 August, on a flight from Aqaba in Jordan.

He first met with Rami Hamdallah, the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority.

Next the Secretary-General helped launch the United Nations Development Assistance Framework for the State of Palestine.  (See Press Release SG/SM/15220.)

The Secretary-General then met Issa Qaraqe, the Minister of Prisoner Affairs and representatives of civic society groups handling prisoner affairs.

Later, he took part in a meeting with Palestinian students involved in a Model United Nations, including students from Gaza who joined by video link.

After this the Secretary-General visited the grave of former President Yasser Arafat to lay a wreath. He then met President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian leaders.

The Secretary-General gave a press encounter with President Abbas before heading to Israel.

Activities of Secretary-General in Jordan, 15 August (16 August 2013)
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Amman in the early hours of Thursday, 15 August, on a flight from Islamabad.

That morning he met with Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh at the Foreign Ministry.

Next the Secretary-General and the Foreign Minister flew by helicopter to Aqaba for a meeting with King Abdullah II Bin Al Hussein.

The Secretary-General left Jordan in the early afternoon, flying to Ramallah in the State of Palestine by helicopter.

Activities of Secretary-General in Pakistan, 13-14 August (16 August 2013)
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, accompanied by Madam Ban Soon-taek, arrived in Islamabad in the early hours of Tuesday, 13 August, after a flight from New York via Dubai.

The Secretary-General first held a town hall meeting with United Nations staff in Pakistan, including by video link for those in other locations across the country.

Next, the Secretary-General met with Sartaj Aziz, the Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs.

The Secretary-General travelled from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Centre for International Peace and Stability at the National University of Sciences and Technology, where he inaugurated the Centre and delivered a speech.  (See Press Release SG/SM/15210.)

From the University, the Secretary-General headed to Taxila in Rawalpindi District to visit the Taxila Museum’s Buddhist and Hindu centre that is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site.

The Secretary-General then returned to Islamabad where he took part in a Youth and Education event involving a discussion with students.  (See Press Release SG/SM/15211.)

He next visited Parliament House to meet the Speaker of the National Assembly, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq.

The following morning, Wednesday, 14 August, the Secretary-General attended Pakistan’s Independence Day Celebration at the National Convention Centre.

He then met with Dr. Fahmida Mirza, the former Speaker of the National Assembly, who is instrumental in the Women Parliamentary Caucus.  He later took part in a round-table discussion with women parliamentarians.

After that, the Secretary-General met with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif.  They addressed the media.

Later, the Secretary-General met with the Chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority, Major-General Saeed Aleem.

The Secretary-General met next with the President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari.

The Secretary-General left Islamabad late that night on a flight to Amman, where he arrived early the following day.