UN chief calls on Israel to make 'goodwill' gestures toward Palestinians
Ban Ki-moon's visits region in an attempt to persuade sides to continue direct exploratory talks, which began in Jordan last month.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon kicked off a series of meetings Wednesday with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, beginning in Jerusalem with President Shimon Peres. Ban told Peres that Israel must make some confidence-building gestures toward the Palestinians, in order to carry on with the direct talks between the sides in Jordan.
According to senior Israeli officials, Ban told Peres that Israel should take steps to assist the Palestinians and illustrate that the Palestinian state is already being built on the ground. Later on Wednesday, Ban is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and is expected to make the same calls for Israeli gestures.
Ban is one of several foreign leaders who have recently called on Netanyahu to make gestures toward the Palestinians in order to avoid a breakdown in the Amman talks. Netanyahu has said is willing to make such gestures, but only if he is given guarantees that the Palestinians will not walk away from the negotiating table a few weeks later.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman also met with Ban on Wednesday, and told him that "the impression is that the Palestinians are only interested in declaring the failure of the talks in Amman so they can continue with unilateral steps."
In recent weeks, the Palestinians have repeatedly asked that Israel release approximately 130 prisoners it Israel has been holding since the years before the Oslo Accords. Other possible gestures may include increased Palestinian security control over areas B and C.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to consult with the Arab League on Saturday, before making a final decision.
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