Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York






Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, Ehud Olmert, the Prime Minister of Israel, has just conducted, this week, an interview with Al-Arabiya, in which he offered to speak to the Syrians and hold talks without preconditions, anywhere, any time and without even the mediation of the Americans.  There were also signs from the Syrian side that they are willing to talk.  Would the United Nations, if asked, help in facilitating such talks between the two parties, knowing the importance of such talks on the principle of land for peace — i.e., the Golan Heights — for lasting peace with Syria?

The Secretary-General:  It’s encouraging to see that the Israeli Prime Minister and Palestinian President [Mahmoud] Abbas met again, and also it is encouraging that Israel has expressed the willingness to talk with the Syrian President, and all other regional players.  As Secretary-General, as well as the United Nations, firmly supporting such initiatives, I would be happy to facilitate such peace initiatives.


Question:  Mr. Secretary[-General], thousands of people will be demonstrating a few blocks from here regarding kidnapped Israeli soldiers.  That was a main reason for the war last summer.  It’s been a year; they haven’t been freed.  What is the latest that you can tell them regarding the fate of those soldiers?  And will you be speaking out more to demonstrate the need for their release, although we understand there are other prisoner issues related, as always, to the Middle East?

The Secretary-General:  Because of the sensitivities involving the safe return of Israeli soldiers, I have not said much about this issue, what I have been doing.  I think the less said publicly may be better for the resolution of this issue.  In fact, I have been doing a lot through my facilitator to have the release of two Israeli soldiers captured by Hizbullah.  And I have also spoken many times, on numerous occasions, to Palestinian leaders to free, release Corporal [Gilad] Shalit.  These efforts will continue.


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