Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has held talks by telephone with key figures in the Middle East as he urged the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to continue their efforts to find a way forward in their direct talks to resolve the long-running conflict.
Mr. Ban spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and United States Envoy for the Middle East George Mitchell yesterday in a series of calls as part of his efforts to promote peace in the Middle East.
The discussions focused on the current status of the direct talks between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, which resumed last month under US auspices after a hiatus of 19 months.
Mr. Ban welcomed the continuing US efforts to sustain the talks and offered his support to peace efforts, according to information released by the Secretary-General`s spokesperson.
He encouraged Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas to find a way forward, reiterating his belief that negotiations are the only way for Israelis and Palestinians to resolve all final status issues and realize their aspirations.
Mr. Ban also renewed his hope that the Israeli Government would extend its settlement restraint policy and he underscored the need to create a conducive environment for the negotiations to be successful.
Earlier this week the Secretary-General expressed disappointment that Israel had not moved to extend the moratorium on the building of Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Mr. Ban reiterated that settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law. He urged Israel to fulfil its obligation under the Roadmap obligation to freeze settlement activity.
The Middle East Quartet " comprising the UN, the US, the European Union and Russia " has also backed a settlement moratorium in the interests of encouraging the face-to-face talks between Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas.