UN chief 'concerned' over J'lem building
During meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu in New York, Ban voices his concern in light of 'plans for further settlements'. Other issues discussed include efforts to resume peace talks with Palestinians, Ghajar withdrawal plan, Iran, and UNESCO calling Rachel's Tomb a mosque
Netanyahu and Ban discussed the efforts to resume peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The UN chief stressed in a statement released after the meeting that it was "vital to break the current diplomatic stalemate, resume negotiations and produce results."
He also expressed his concern over "plans for further settlements and plans to build more Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem".
Netanyahu presented the Israeli offer to withdraw from the northern village of Ghajar, located on the Israel-Lebanon border, saying that he planned to convene his cabinet upon his return to Jerusalem and approve the plan. The prime minister also addressed the failure to implement Security Council resolutions, including Resolution 1701 which was aimed at disarming the militias, including Hezbollah.
The discussion also touched on the Iranian influence on the situation in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
During the meeting, Netanyahu condemned United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's decision to refer to Rachel's Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs as mosques.
"For close to 4,000 years, the Jewish people have had a special connection with the Cave of the Patriarchs. More than one billion people are familiar with this connection, which is documented in the book of books – the Bible. Historic facts must not be distorted for political purposes. This will only harm the UN's status and the way it is seen by serious people across the world," the prime minister said.
In the statement released by the UN chief, Ban referred to the moves taken by Israel to open the crossings to the Gaza Strip, expressing his hope for "further measures to ease the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza."
The east Jerusalem building permits embarrassed Netanyahu during his visit to the United States. State Department Spokesman Philip Crowley said Monday night that Washington was "deeply disappointed by the announcement of advanced planning for new housing units in sensitive areas of east Jerusalem."
He added that the construction announcement might have been meant to "embarrass the prime minister and to undermine the process."
"We have long urged both parties to avoid actions which could undermine trust, including in Jerusalem, and will continue to work to resume direct negotiations to address this and other final-status issues," Crowley stated.
A senior government source told Ynet that the criticism was directed at the interior minister. "There is no doubt that the finger was pointed at Eli Yishai and the Interior Ministry. They are the ones responsible for issuing the permits," the source stated.
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