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Breaking Middle East peace deadlock is vital, Ban tells Israeli Defence Minister

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak it was vital to break the current stalemate in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians and make progress towards resolving all final status issues.

Meeting with Mr. Barak at United Nations Headquarters in New York, Mr. Ban called for full Israeli engagement with the UN and its partners in the Quartet – the European Union, Russia and the United States – which seeks a two-State solution to the Middle East conflict based on Israel and Palestine living side by side as sovereign nations in peace and security.

The Secretary-General took positive note of the recent Israel announcement of additional measures easing the blockade of Gaza and further steps in the West Bank, including a further transfer of security, his spokesman said.

He urged Mr. Barak to take further steps to ease the suffering in Gaza, where some 1.5 million Palestinians live under a blockade imposed by Israel over three years ago when Hamas, which rejects Israel’s right to exist, took power.

He also noted with appreciation Mr. Barak’s confirmation that preparations for the Israeli army’s withdrawal from northern Ghajar in Lebanon were on track.

The withdrawal is one of the terms of Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended a month-long war between Israel and the Hizbollah militia in 2006 and calls for respect for the Blue Line separating Israel and Lebanon, the disarming of all militias in Lebanon, and an end to arms smuggling in the area.

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