Ban Calls For Improved Reality For M East Peace

Published: Thu 4 Dec 2008 01:18 PM
Ban Calls For Improved Reality On The Ground For Middle East Peace Process To Succeed
The ongoing talks between Israel and the Palestinians aimed at ending the long-standing conflict in the Middle East must be accompanied by improvements in living conditions and security on the ground, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has told a seminar on peace in the region today.
Mr. Ban expressed regret that the goal of reaching a peace treaty by the end of the year – as set out under the negotiating track launched in the United States city of Annapolis last year – is unlikely to be achieved, in a message read to the seminar by Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Kiyo Akasaka.
He stressed, however, that the parties have succeeded in creating trust and a framework for negotiations where none had existed two years ago.
“We must not diminish that achievement. Moreover, the parties’ own joint assessment that their negotiations have been substantial and promising is noteworthy,” Mr. Ban said in the message, delivered to delegates at the two-day seminar, which is being held in Vienna.
“I welcome their determination to continue uninterrupted, during the current period of transition, towards a comprehensive peace agreement addressing all issues,” he added in his remarks at the meeting yesterday.
The Secretary-General noted that a large gap existed between the political negotiations and the reality for people living in the area on both sides of the conflict, highlighting settlement activity, rocket fire, the humanitarian emergency in the Gaza Strip and divisions among Palestinian factions as considerable obstacles to sustainable peace and security in the region.
“If people are to have faith in the political process, there is a need for tangible improvements in living conditions and security,” Mr. Ban said.
A pilot project constructing a waste water treatment plant in Gaza that would produce health and agricultural benefits for both sides was launched at a similar seminar two years ago by four Israeli and Palestinian mayors.
“This is just one effort, and it may seem somewhat removed from present realities, but it shows that peace can and must be promoted not only at the political level, but at the grass roots,” said Mr. Ban. “That idea underpins this year’s media seminar, which is dedicated to the role of the international community.”
The 16th international media seminar on peace in the Middle East was organized by the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) in cooperation with the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs.
“Our shared goal remains clear: an end to the occupation that began in 1967, the achievement of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with Israel, in accordance with all relevant Security Council resolutions,” Mr. Ban said.

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