UN Sec. Gen. urges Israel to further apply settlement freeze.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Israel to extend the settlement freeze and further apply it to east Jerusalem in a meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak in New York Friday, Israel Radio reported.
In the private meeting, the two discussed direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, Israel's settlement policy, the international panel established by the UN to probe the Turkish flotilla incident and easing the blockade of the Gaza Strip.
"We are hoping to to start direct negotiations with the Palestinians soon, in order to move forward with an agreement which will be based on two nations for two peoples," explained Barak. "The negotiations will not be simple, and courageous decisions will be required on our part and the Palestinians. I hope everyone understands that both sides will need to make difficult decisions to establish historic peace in the region. We will need the help of the UN to go forward with the negotiations," stated the defense minister after the meeting.
In regards to Lebanon, Barak explained that the UN must act to prevent weapon smuggling by Hizbullah and to implement resolution 1701. "Israel views the Lebanese government responsible for every attack on Israel," the defense minister told Ban.
Israel's UN Mission refused to comment on the meeting.
The secretary-general 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.
Israel has rebuffed pressure from the UN and Turkey for an international inquiry and instead formed its own commission headed by a retired Israeli Supreme Court justice with two international observers.
Ban said last month that Israel's own investigation into the flotilla raid "is important" but will not have "international credibility." He said that is the reason he continued to urge the Israeli government to agree to an international panel under a third party "in which both Turkey and Israel would actively participate."
Pressed last month on why he did not go ahead and appoint an international commission, the secretary-general said without Israel's "full cooperation it would be extremely difficult to have a full and credible investigation, and that is why even if it may take time, I'm discussing this matter with (the) Israeli government."