UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-Moon met Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem today, then Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
After both meetings, there was a press conference.
In Jerusalem with Netanyahu, BAN said “Settlements do not help the peace process… I told the prime minister that he should refrain from future construction”. [Just future construction? The goalposts keep getting moved…]
Netanyahu reportedly told BAN that the settlement issue must be discussed during negotiations, “it can’t be a precondition”… [So, the Palestinians need to negotiate about settlements? Somehow, this sounds different than just saying settlements are one of the final status issues in negotiations…]
According to the New York Times, “Mr. Netanyahu thanked Mr. Ban for his ‘good intentions’, but he said the settlement question should be dealt with as part of a final agreement. ‘It cannot be a precondition to enter into that agreement’, he said”. This is published here.
This NYTimes story added: “An Israeli official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue said Israel was ‘ready for mutual confidence-building measures in the framework of a peace process that is moving forward’ — in other words, as long as the measures came with guarantees that the Palestinians would stick with the talks. He would not specify what steps they might include. Another Israeli official said that in a closed meeting with Mr. Peres, Mr. Ban suggested that Israel, as the stronger party, should release Palestinian prisoners as one way of improving the atmosphere”…
In Ramallah with Abbas, BAN said “A viable Palestinian state is long overdue. I continue to believe a two-state solution is long overdue … The international community has been clear: all settlements are contrary to international law … [In the “exploratory” talks recently in Amman] the Palestinians have been forthcoming in producing proposals on territory + security, and I very much hope Israel will present their proposals. This is what I told Israeli leaders today”.
BAN also said, in answer to a question from the press, that “I fully share the Palestinians’ complaint that they have been under occupation for such a long time, suffering all these hardships without prospects of knowing when this will be over … We have wasted almost 20 years since Oslo … [But] negotiations is the best way to get results”.
Travelling with BAN was the former UN Special Envoy here, Terje Roed Larsen [who is still working on the Lebanon dossier]…
The long-serving Ambassador of the Observer Mission of Palestine, Riyad Mansour, was also present.
BAN added, in response to another question, that “On 23rd September I received the Palestinian application for UN membership, and I immediately conveyed it to the UN Security Council. I made it immediately clear that I fully support the aspiration of the Palestinian people to become a UN member within the framework of two states … it’s still in the hands of the UN Security Council”.
Abbas told BAN: “Mr. Secretary-General, I hope to be able to host you soon in an independent state”…
But, Abbas said, in response to a question from the press, that “We toured the whole world to get 9 votes in the UN Security Council, though I knew at the end that we faced the veto … Unfortunately, we did not achieve our goal of getting 9 votes … At some point we will review all our steps in the near future”.
He also said there was “a need to stop the campaign of arrests” and to free detained parliamentarians”…
Abbas, in his remarks, did not insult the Quartet … instead, he offered a light but rather indistinct compliment.
The Chief Palestinian negotiator Sa’eb Erekat was seated in the front row, during the press conference [next to Terje Roed Larsen], and PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi was there as well.
“In the end”, Abbas said, I wish to assert that what we want is a two-state solution within the 1967 borders, and the need to end the Israeli presence on all our territory, including the Jordan Valley and East Jerusalem”.
[Last week, at the end of the 5th “exploratory meeting” in Amman in which Israeli + Palestinian negotiators sat together for the first time a long time, an Israeli envoy made sweepingly broad indications of Israel’s territorial interests — and said Israel wanted to keep a security presence along the Jordan River…]
Tomorrow, BAN is going to Gaza in the morning, and will address the Herzliya Conference at 8 PM, before flying back to New York after midnight.
[Earlier on this trip away from New York, the UNSG was in Ethiopia; Davos, Switzerland, and Amman…]