NEW YORK: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon returned to United Nations Headquarters in New York on Tuesday from a tour of the Middle East and said he was “encouraged by the very active support and determined will of Arab leaders in tackling a variety of problems from the Palestinian issue to the conflicts in Sudan and Somalia.
“I was able to see the Arab leaders engaging on many important regional issues, he told reporters.
Ban, who attended the Arab League summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and also visited Iraq, Egypt, Israel, the occupied Palestinian territory, and Lebanon, noted that with the formation of a Palestinian National Unity Government, “the active diplomatic initiatives are on the way: Arab peace initiatives, Arab leaders who are determined to visit this issue again as a foundation for establishing a good relationship and peace between Israel and Arab countries, and particularly between Israel and the Palestinian authorities.
He was asked whether with the formation of the Unity Government by Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement, the time was right now to lift a donors’ embargo imposed after Hamas, which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, formed the Government alone last year.
“There was an understanding among the Quartet [UN, European Union, Russia and United States] that we will wait and see how the National Unity Government, particularly Hamas, will perform in terms of all these international expectations, he replied.
“We hope that the National Unity Government will meet the expectations of the international community. When I had a brief meeting with the Foreign Minister Ziad Abu [Amr] of the National Unity Government he assured me that his government will continue to work to meet the expectations of the international community.
The Quartet has called on the Government to commit to non-violence, recognize Israel and accept previously signed agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. “Realistically speaking, again, I thought from my meeting with the Foreign Minister of Palestine, and the National Unity Government, that it may take time for them to make their own positions coordinated among themselves, Ban said.
On Somalia, where fighting between the Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Government and Islamists has led to dozens of deaths and injuries in recent days, he said he hoped the Government would be able to convene the national reconciliation congress scheduled for 16 April. “The international community should continue to encourage the Transitional Federal Government’s efforts, he added.
Ban also reiterated his call for an early resolution of the capture of 15 British marines and sailors whom Iran said it seized in Iranian waters. The British say they were patrolling in Iraqi waters.
Of his talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Motaki in Saudi Arabia, he said: “I requested and appealed to him that this issue should be resolved as soon as possible through political, diplomatic consultations. At the same time, I would hope that this rhetoric should be toned down.
“It is not desirable in helping resolve this issue. As Secretary-General, I would again hope that we would be able to see some early release of these UK sailors. I know that there are many issues involved, but it would be desirable for the international community to see an early [resolution] on this issue, in a diplomatic and peaceful way, he added.