UN chief urges Mideast rivals to drop 'scepticism'
UN chief Ban Ki-moon
called on Israelis and Palestinians on
Friday to overcome "deep scepticism" that
he said risked thwarting efforts to reach a
"We must overcome the deep scepticism
that comes from 20 years of stalemate,"
Ban said at a meeting in Jerusalem with
Israeli President Shimon Peres.
"I urge all parties to avoid actions that
risk undermining the negotiations," a
statement quoted him as saying.
"Both sides need to sustain an
environment conducive for the peace
process to move forward," he said
speaking two days after US-brokered
peace talks resumed in Jerusalem.
Wednesday's talks, the fruit of months of
intensive US diplomatic efforts to bring
the two sides back to the negotiating table
after a nearly three-year break, were
overshadowed by a new row over Israeli
settlement plans for the occupied
In the run-up to the talks, Israel
announced plans to build more than
2,000 new settler homes in annexed east
Jerusalem and elsewhere in the occupied
West Bank, infuriating Palestinian officials.
Ban himself criticised the Israeli plans at a
meeting with Palestinian president
Mahmud Abbas in the West Bank town of
Ramallah on Thursday.
The UN chief told reporters he was
"deeply troubled by Israel's continued
settlement activity in the West Bank,
including east Jerusalem.
"Settlement activity is deepening the
Palestinian people's mistrust in the
seriousness on the Israeli side towards
"It will ultimately render a two-state
solution impossible," he warned.
But Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu played down the settlements
issue at a meeting with Ban later on
"The root cause (of the conflict) was and
remains the persistent refusal to recognise
the Jewish state in any boundary,"
"It doesn't have to do with the
settlements - that's an issue that has to be
resolved, but this is not the reason that
we have a continual conflict.
"If we build a few hundred apartments...
in urban blocks that everybody knows...
will be part of the final peace map in
Israel, I think these are not the real issues
that we need to discuss," he continued.
"The real issue is how to get a
demilitarised Palestinian state to finally
recognise and accept the one and only