Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Defense Minister Ehud Barak discussed the Security Council's demand for an international investigation of Israel's deadly commando raid on a Turkish ship trying to bring aid to Gaza, a UN diplomat said Friday.
Ban has been urging Israel to agree to the "prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards" that the UN Security Council called for on June 1.
But Israel has rebuffed pressure from the UN and Turkey for an international inquiry. Instead, it has formed its own commission - headed by a retired Israeli Supreme Court justice with two international observers.
The UN diplomat, who was briefed on a private Ban-Barak meeting after a larger meeting with aides, said it focused on the international investigation but provided no details. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were closed.
Barak (L) with Ban (Archive photo: Ariel Hermoni, Defense Ministry)
Ban said last month that Israel's own investigation into the flotilla raid "is important" but won't have "international credibility." He said that's why he was continuing to urge the Israeli government to agree to an international panel under a third party "in which both Turkey and Israel would actively participate."
Direct talks, settlements also discussed
Meanwhile, the defense minister's bureau said the meeting covered the launch of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as the situation in Lebanon.
According to Barak's bureau, the defense minister said in the meeting, "We hope to start direct talks with the Palestinians soon, in order to move towards an agreement that will be based on the formula of two states for two peoples. The talks won't be easy. Courageous decisions will be required on our part, and on the Palestinians' part. I hope everyone understands that both parties will have to make difficult decisions in order to establish historic peace in the region. We will need the UN's help to make progress in the talks."
Regarding Lebanon, Barak said the UN must work to prevent the smuggling of weapons to Hezbollah, in accordance with Resolution 1701. The defense minister also stressed to Ban that Israel holds the Lebanese government responsible for all attacks on Israel from the north.
UN spokesman Martin Nesirky confirmed that Ban and Barak discussed a range of issues including Lebanon, the situation in Gaza, and Israeli settlements and then held "a separate private conversation." Israel's UN Mission refused to comment on the meeting.
Nesirky said the secretary-general "underscored the importance of a further easing of the closures" in Gaza during his meeting with Barak, and said that Ban reiterated his demand that Israel refrain from expanding settlements and construction in east Jerusalem, in hopes of facilitating the renewal of peace talks.
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