REPORTING FROM RAMALLAH, WEST BANK — United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday said an independent Palestinian state is long overdue.
Ban arrived in Ramallah from Israel, where he met Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a bid to keep the latest peace talks between the two sides going.
At a news conference with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the U.N. chief urged the Palestinians and Israelis to return to direct negotiations, stressing that “the two-state solution can be achieved only through negotiations.”
Abbas agreed. “We fully believe that the way to reach peace with Israel is through negotiations,” he said.
However, Abbas argued that Israel did not present anything at the exploratory talks held in the Jordanian capital of Amman last month that would encourage resumption of negotiations. The talks are on hold until after Palestinian negotiators consult with the Arab countries.
Ban said the talks should continue, stressing the importance of having a political goal to sustain what has been achieved so far. He urged both parties to refrain from provocative actions that would undermine efforts to restart negotiations.
Israel, he said, should stop settlement construction in the areas the Palestinians want to have as their future state because “settlements are contrary to international law and prejudice final status talks.”
Israeli officials have argued that the question of settlements should be left to the final peace talks and agreements.
— Maher Abukhater
Photo: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, listens to Bashar Masri, head of the Bayti Real Estate Investment Co., after visiting a new investment project just north of the West Bank city of Ramallah on Wednesday. Credit: Ahmad Gharabli / Associated Press