Tuesday, March 9, 2010

UN chief Ban Ki-moon to visit Moscow March 19 before Mideast tour — UN spokesman

 UN chief Ban Ki-moon to visit Moscow March 19 before Mideast tour - UN spokesman

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will be in Moscow on March 19 for the Mideast quartet meeting before heading to Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, a spokesman for the UN Secretary General said on Tuesday.

The Israeli foreign ministry on Monday said Ban and the European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, were given permission to enter the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. As a rule, the UN Secretary General's plans are usually not revealed so far in advance due to security reasons.

"The Secretary-General is expected to visit Israel, the West Bank and Gaza following his attendance at the Quartet meeting scheduled on the 19th of March in Moscow. And we'll get back to you with more details when we have them," Martin Nesirki said at a briefing in New York.

Russia, along with the UN, the United States and European Union, comprises part of the Middle East Quartet of intermediaries for peace efforts. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton are scheduled to attend the March 19 meeting in Moscow.

Talks between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority came to a halt in December 2008, when Israel launched an attack on the Gaza Strip in a bid to put an end to the firing of homemade rockets at southern Israel by Palestinian militants based in the enclave. The conflict left 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.

Settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, both occupied by Israel since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, has been the main obstacle to reviving peace talks.

Under the internationally agreed roadmap for Middle East peace, Israel is obliged to freeze all settlement construction activity, and remove unauthorized outposts built since 2001 from the Palestinian territories.

UN, March 9 (RIA Novosti)

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