The Secretary-General will leave this week for Egypt, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Israel and Jordan.  He will on the 28th of March attend the Arab Summit in Riyadh before departing for Beirut.  The Secretary-General will be back at Headquarters on the 2nd of April.

The Secretary-General’s main priorities for the trip will be the Middle East peace process, stability in Lebanon, Darfur and the United Nations role within the Iraq Compact.

The Middle East is among the top items on the Secretary-General’s agenda.  The UN has had crucial political and operational roles in the Middle East for over 60 years.  And the Secretary-General wants to see first-hand the UN peace operations and presences in the region.  He also wants to hear first-hand from the people in the region on the problems and challenges they face.

The Secretary-General believes that we are seeing a renewed dynamism in diplomacy in the Arab world.  During his visit to the Arab League Summit, he wants to express his support to ongoing efforts to reenergise the Middle East peace process and bring about peace and stability in Lebanon, Iraq, and in the broader Middle East context.
** Middle East Quartet

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke this morning with the other members of the Quartet for peace in the Middle East.  The conference call included US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Javier Solana, Secretary General of the Council of the European Union and EU Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.  They discussed the Quartet’s approach to the new Palestinian Unity Government between Fatah and Hamas approved by the Palestinian legislature on Saturday.  They have agreed that there will be a joint statement that will be issued this afternoon.


**Questions and Answers

Question:  Has the Secretary-General already established his own position on whether the new Palestinian Unity Government should be engaged vis-à-vis the three principles of the Quartet?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think he will join the Quartet statement this afternoon, which is a joint statement.  He will not express a separate opinion at this point.

Question:  I wanted to just… is today’s Quartet statement on the Palestinian Unity Government?

Spokesperson:  Yes, it will be.  It’s not out yet.

Question:  And, in the Middle East trip, will the Secretary-General be meeting with the Government, the new Palestinian Government?

Spokesperson:  Yes, he will.

Question:  That means he’ll be meeting with Hamas for the first time, yes?

Spokesperson:  He will be meeting with members of the Government.

Question:  With the members of the Government or the President?

Spokesperson:  He’ll be meeting with the President.  At this point, I don’t have the final programme yet, and I will let you know whether there are other people involved.  He is meeting with President Abbas.

* *** *
For information media • not an official record

Document Type: Highlights of the Noon Briefing
Document Sources: Secretary-General, United Nations News Service
Subject: Quartet
Publication Date: 19/03/2007