Ban Ki-moon and  Benjamin Netanyahu - AP - 21.9.2011
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 21, 2011. Photo by AP
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has apologized to Ban Ki-moon for releasing details of a conversation between the two on the UN secretary-general's visit to Tehran in August.

The friction with Ban began on August 10, when Netanyahu phoned the secretary-general and tried to persuade him not to attend the Nonaligned Movement's summit in Tehran. Minutes later, Netanyahu's office published a statement detailing the prime minister's arguments.

The message by Netanyahu's office, which was released without coordination with Ban's office, embarrassed and infuriated the secretary general. According to a senior Israeli official, a few days later, when Netanyahu understood the damage caused, he took the initiative and called Ban to apologize.

Netanyahu told Ban he still opposed the Tehran visit but had no intention of embarrassing the secretary-general, whom he considers a friend of Israel.

At the beginning of September, Ban phoned Netanyahu and briefed him on his meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

According to a Western diplomat familiar with the conversation, Netanyahu told Ban he had listened to Ban's speech in Tehran in which he condemned Iranian Holocaust denial and threats to destroy Israel. According to the diplomat, Netanyahu told Ban he wished the secretary-general had not visited Tehran, but that he appreciated Ban's public statements and the views he expressed in talks with Iran's leaders.

 

Besides Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak also called the secretary general that week and relayed a similarly reconciliatory message. Barak, who perceives Ban as an Israeli ally, wanted to verify that the tensions have diffused.

After their meeting, Netanyahu and Ban are expected to meet later in the week at the sidelines of the General Assembly.

The Prime Minister's Bureau declined to comment