16 March 2010 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today appealed for restraint from all sides after clashes erupted in East Jerusalem today, pledging to push for a resumption of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians in a bid to find a solution to the long-running conflict.
According to media reports, the clashes broke out following last week’s announcement by Israel of plans to build 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem, a move that was condemned by Mr. Ban and by the diplomatic Quartet that comprises the United Nations, the United States, Russia and the European Union.
“As I have said before I say again, directly and without equivocation: settlements are illegal under internationalAs I have said before I say again, directly and without equivocation: settlements are illegal under international law law,” the Secretary-General emphasized at his monthly press conference today in New York.
He underscored that the status of Jerusalem, “a city holy to three religions,” is subject to final negotiation. “I call for restraint and calm by all.”
Mr. Ban leaves tonight for Moscow for the next Quartet meeting, where he said he will work with its members and the two sides to jump-start talks to pay the way for an end to the conflict.
From the Russian capital, he will travel to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, where he hopes to see the situation on the ground in Gaza, where the Israeli blockade prevents the region from rebuilding more than a year after the end of Operation Cast Lead, the three-week Israeli military offensive with the stated aim of ending rocket attacks by Palestinian militants.
Characterizing the closure of the Gaza Strip as “counterproductive,” he said that it destroys hope – for a better life and for recovery – for residents.
Further, the blockade “undercuts moderates and empowers extremists,” and destroys legitimate business and drives commerce underground, he pointed out.
“It blocks the road to a peaceful future for both sides in this conflict,” the Secretary-General said, stressing that “it is time for a change of direction.”
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