/ 30 March 2009

Ban urges Israeli govt to freeze settlements

United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday urged the incoming Israeli right-wing government to freeze settlements, stop unilateral actions in Jerusalem and ease conditions in Gaza, at the opening of the Arab summit.

”The new Israeli government must allow people and goods to move [into Gaza]. It must freeze settlements, cease unilateral actions in Jerusalem and continue negotiations,” Ban said, while praising an Arab peace offer.

Ban said residents of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip were suffering and that the situation at the crossing points into the impoverished territory is ”intolerable”.

Israeli prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu will present his government to Parliament on Tuesday, an official with his right-wing Likud party said.

Ban also said he was ”encouraged” by the commitment of United States President Barack Obama to prioritise the Middle East process.

”I sense a renewed conviction in the entire international community that this conflict does not just need to be managed; it needs to be settled,” he said.

He praised an Arab peace initiative, on offer since 2002, as being central to help reaching a settlement.

”The Arab peace initiative embodies this principle, and I will continue to support all efforts to place it at the centre of the search for comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace,” he said.

The Saudi-inspired initiative offers Israel a full normalisation of ties in return for its withdrawal from the occupied territories. — AFP