RAMALLAH March 20 (JMCC) - United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon continued his trip in the occupied Palestinian territories with a visit to the Gaza Strip, on Sunday.
This marks Ban's second trip to the devastated territory after Israel's assault 15 months ago. Ban continued offering constructive words to Palestinians, not only on a political, but also on a human level.
The United Nations will stand with you, he said. We will do much, much more to ease your suffering.
Ban thanked the people he had talked to for sharing the stories of their plights with him and said he would do his best to bring an 'overdue' resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Secretary General reiterated points made in a statement by the Mideast Quartet Friday, emphasizing Palestinian suffering and all sides' obligations to international law
Palestinians and Israelis have to get negotiations underway, said Ban, speaking to reporters in Ramallah
on Saturday, where he met with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad
. We encourage all Palestinians to support negotiations.
These talks, Ban said, must lead to an end to Israel
's occupation of 1967 lands, a solution for millions of Palestinian refugees and the city of Jerusalem
and establishment of the borders of a future Palestinian state.
Fayyad and Ban had just returned from a tour of the Wall
Israel has constructed in the West Bank
. It is important, Ban said in an aside, to realize how difficult a life you have.
The Quartet, comprised of representatives of the United States, European Union, Russia and United Nations, strongly backs the Palestinian government program intended to create the conditions for statehood within two years, Ban said.
Ban also reiterated the position that all settlement activity is illegal and called on Israel to release Palestinian prisoners.
The framework of international law must be the basis for parties'
actions on the ground, said the secretary-general.
His statement hinted at a series of demands that the United States, as one of the players in the Quartet, has reportedly made of Israel. Among the possible confidence-building measures that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
could offer is a release of prisoners affiliated with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
party, further concessions over settlements
, and the lifting of checkpoints or other restrictions on movement.
Ban also addressed the closure
of Gaza, through which Israel closely regulates food stuffs and building materials allowed to enter and leave the Gaza Strip
. He pressed for speedy implementation of several United Nations' projects, including the construction of 150 housing units in Khan Younis
Palestinians have been unable to reconstruct homes and crucial infrastructure after Israel's 22-day offensive
in the Gaza Strip last year, despite international pressure to relieve the blockade of the Gaza Strip.