HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY MARIE OKABE
DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
U.N. HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Monday, March 25, 2007
SECRETARY-GENERAL URGES ISRAEL TO SEIZE OPPORTUNITY FOR PEACE
At a joint press conference in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert today, the Secretary-General stressed once more his conviction that “the long-term safety and security of Israel and the creation of a Palestinian State go hand in hand.”
In his remarks to the press, he encouraged all Israelis to assess carefully the opportunity that may be emerging, saying that “we must use the weeks and months ahead to advance the political dialogue, since the alternative is renewed stagnation, which only means more extremism and violence”. The Secretary-General also stressed the need to give the new Palestinian Unity Government some “political space”.
In his meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister, the Secretary-General also discussed the Iranian nuclear issue, the situation in Lebanon, and the importance of making progress on the Palestinian issue. A vital first step on that issue, the Secretary-General said, is for the new Palestinian government to take action against the firing of rockets from Gaza and to secure the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit.
The Secretary-General also stressed that Israel’s actions are very crucial, particularly as regards settlements, outposts, checkpoints and withheld revenues. Existing obligations and commitments, including under the Road Map, need to be kept by both parties, he insisted.
Yesterday in Ramallah, the Secretary General had met the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.
During a press conference on Sunday, the Secretary General stressed that achieving peace will require all parties to go further than they have before, but it can and must be done, and his message to Israel and to the world from here in Ramallah is that he is convinced that President Abbas is ready.