United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Tel Aviv in the early hours of 20 March from Moscow, with a stopover in Vienna, and then drove to Jerusalem.
During the stopover in Vienna, the Secretary-General met Austrian Foreign Ministry officials to discuss a forthcoming official visit to Austria.
After a working breakfast with United Nations advisers in Jerusalem, the Secretary-General travelled to Masyoun, Ramallah, in the West Bank for talks with Palestinian Authority officials, including Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. From a vantage point, the Prime Minister showed the Secretary-General the effects of restrictions and settlements in the area. The Secretary-General noted that Israel’s approval of a small number of United Nations humanitarian projects was welcome, but more needed to be done.
The Secretary-General then held talks with Prime Minister Fayyad and other Palestinian officials before the two men held a joint press conference, at which the Secretary-General said the United Nations and others would work hard to support the proposed United States-facilitated proximity talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. He said those talks were not an end in themselves but a route to direct talks.
After a working luncheon with Prime Minister Fayyad and other officials, the Secretary-General returned to Jerusalem for meetings with United Nations officials.
That evening, the Secretary-General attended a dinner hosted by Israeli President Shimon Peres at the President’s residence. In remarks to the media before the dinner, the Secretary-General welcomed Israel’s commitment to a two-State solution and urged all sides to exercise restraint and end violence.
Early on 21 March, the Secretary-General drove to Gaza, where he first visited the site of a bombed-out house that had still not been repaired, and spoke to local people, who urged him to do more to persuade the Israeli authorities to ease the closure of crossings. The Secretary-General said he would be making precisely that point in meetings with Israeli leaders.
The Secretary-General then drove to Khan Younis to visit an incomplete United Nations housing project. There, he was briefed by United Nations officials on a rooftop overlooking the unfinished housing complex and met representatives of civic groups and business in an apartment that still has no window panes. At a press conference afterwards, the Secretary-General expressed his condolences over the death of a Palestinian teenager, and also condemned rocket strikes against Israel. “All this violence must end, must stop,” he said. “I know that there are differences of opinion between the parties; all these should be resolved through dialogue in a peaceful manner and they all should calm down and refrain from taking any violent actions.” He said he had come to Gaza to express his solidarity with the people and to tell them the United Nations stands with them in this ordeal.
The Secretary-General returned to Jerusalem on a route that took him along the Gaza coastline and through Gaza City. In Jerusalem, he met Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak and other officials for a working luncheon at which they discussed prospects for the Middle East peace process.
Next, the Secretary-General met Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon, the head of Israel’s National Agency for International Development and other officials. He also met members of an Israel Defense Forces medical team that was deployed to Haiti soon after the earthquake. There, as at his other meetings with Israeli leaders, the Secretary-General thanked Israel for its swift and generous support for the people of Haiti.
The Secretary-General also met that day with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Speaking to the press beforehand, Mr. Ban said that, while participating in the League of Arab Summit, due to take place the following week in Sirte, Libya, he would encourage Arab leaders to support and encourage proximity talks between the two concerned parties.
The Secretary-General gave two television interviews, one to Udi Segal of Israel’s Channel Two and one to Ziad Halabi of Al Arabiya, an Arabic-language network. In both interviews he underscored the need for support for proximity talks. He also had private meetings with the family of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and with representatives of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem.
Before leaving for Tel Aviv and then on to New York on an overnight flight, the Secretary-General attended a dinner at Government House with senior United Nations force commanders from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) and advisers. He arrived back in the United States early on the morning of 22 March.