Shalom tells Ban 'it takes 2 to tango' in peace talks
Vice prime minister meets with UN secretary-general in New York, clarifies Israel committed to dialogue with Palestinians, but that other side bears responsibility as well. As for disagreements with US, he says, 'Obama and Clinton are Israel's friends and are committed to its security'
WASHINGTON – Israel is willing to resume the diplomatic and economic negotiations with the Palestinians immediately after US President Barack Obama's visit to Egypt, but "it takes two to tango", Vice Prime Minister and Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday night during a meeting at the organization's headquarters in New York.
"I told the UN secretary-general that the current government is committed to a diplomatic and economic dialogue with the Palestinians," Shalom said following his meeting with Ban.
The United Nations chief met Monday with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who clarified that Israel had no plans to cooperate with the team of investigation which had arrived in Israel to look into claims that the Israel Defense Forces committed war crimes in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead.
Shalom said that the nuclear issue – in Iran and North Korea – was raised during his meeting with Ban. "We are all immensely concerned," he added. "We believe the world must be united in its war against the extremists threatening South Korea and Japan in the Far East and Israel and other countries in the Middle East."
Foreign reporters asked the Israeli minister about the disagreement between Washington and Jerusalem over the American demand to halt settlement construction.
"The support for Israel in the US is of two parties and is based not only on shared interests, but on values of democracy and freedom," Shalom replied. "I know just how much President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton are friends of Israel and committed to its security."
'PM committed to past agreements'The minister added, "The prime minister has declared that Israel is committed to the past agreements signed with the Palestinians and the understandings reached in the past. This will enable the Palestinians to make the right decision to resume the negotiations with Israel."
This was the fifth meeting between Shalom and Ban, who know each other from the time they served as the foreign ministers of Israel and South Korea. During the conversation, which lasted about 45 minutes, the UN chief focused on the issue of humanitarian aid to Gaza and asked that Israel allow the delivery of cement into the Strip.
Minister Shalom replied that Israel had no problem with Gaza's residents and was willing to continue supplying goods and money, as long as they avoided helping Hamas.
He expressed his objection to the opening of an office in Gaza for Quartet envoy Tony Blair, and clarified that Hamas must first meet the three demands set by the international Quartet – recognizing Israel and past agreements signed with the Jewish state and renouncing terror.
Shalom also briefed Ban on three new international projects in the region: An agricultural project in Jericho with the Japanese government, a tourism project for pilgrims in the Jordan River with the South Korean government, and an industrial project in Jenin with the German government.