UNITED NATIONS, March 16 (Louis Charbonneau/Reuters) - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday criticized Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman for releasing information about what Ban said was a confidential telephone call between the two men.
I'm troubled by just a unilateral announcement, Ban told reporters when asked about media reports that Lieberman had urged the secretary-general to be more balanced with Israel
That is regrettable, said Ban, who was visibly upset. Normal diplomatic practice is that you agree in advance on the release of information about such conversations to the media.
Ban added that that the point of that practice is to preserve confidentiality and diplomatic and political sensitivities.
In the phone conversation, Lieberman told Ban that Israel had taken a number of positive steps to improve prospects for peace with the Palestinians and expected a more objective and constructive approach from the international community, the Israeli news site Ynet reported.
Among the under-appreciated steps that Lieberman told Ban Israel had taken were a construction freeze on West Bank settlements
, the removal of checkpoints and other gestures, but the only response has been more complaints and pressure on Israel, Ynet said.
An Israeli political source in Jerusalem
confirmed that the Ynet report was accurate.
Last week Ban publicly condemned Israeli plans to build 1,600 more homes on occupied land where Palestinians seek their own state, echoing earlier comments from U.S. Vice President Joe Biden during his trip to the Middle East.
Israel's announcement has threatened to torpedo U.S. efforts to launch indirect peace talks between the two sides after a 15-month hiatus in direct negotiations.
Ban said he reiterated his condemnation to Lieberman and explained why he plans to visit the Gaza Strip
But there was no mention of that in the information about their phone conversation released to Israeli media, he added.
Ban will attend a meeting of the Middle East negotiating Quartet -- the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations -- in Moscow later this week. After that, he heads to Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. (Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)