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Lasting Mideast peace 'hinges' on resolving Arab-Israeli conflict - Ban Ki-moon

31 March 2008 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has stressed that peace and progress in the Middle East “hinges on a just and lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict,” pledging the support of the United Nations to help achieve this goal.

Mr. Ban added that the Peace Initiative put forward by the League of Arab States “remains a key element in our efforts to achieve peace,” in a message delivered by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe to the group’s summit, held in Damascus over the weekend.

“Your engagement is particularly crucial for the fragile political process currently underway between President [Mahmoud] Abbas and Prime Minister [Ehud] Olmert,” Mr. Ban emphasized, adding that while the two leaders have expressed their desire to reach an agreement by the end of this year, “the path to peace remains littered with daunting challenges.”

The Secretary-General called for a more positive strategy for Gaza and encouraged all Arab countries to act responsibly and exercise whatever influence they have to support a cessation of violence in and around Gaza.

Turning to the political crisis in Lebanon, where the Presidency has been vacant for more than four months, Mr. Ban said that this situation is no longer sustainable.

“All Lebanese leaders should put the interests of their country and people first and bring the country away from the brink,” he stressed, calling on everyone to rally behind and work for the implementation of the Arab League initiative on the issue.

The Secretary-General also cited “significant progress” in the establishment of the Special Tribunal to try those responsible for the death of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri in February 2005, noting that the court’s work will be an important step toward ending impunity and contribute to a just and lasting peace in the country.

“The challenges ahead are substantial, but they are not insurmountable,” Mr. Ban stated, as he called for building a strong and strategic partnership between the UN and the Arab League, “one that delivers on the security, development and human rights aspirations of the Arab people.”

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