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Ban to visit Middle East to encourage Israelis and Palestinians to re-engage

25 January 2012 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today that he will travel to the Middle East next week to encourage the Israelis and the Palestinians to re-engage to move the peace process forward.

“My visit comes at an important moment,” Mr. Ban told a news conference at UN Headquarters, as he announced his travels to Jordan, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators began preparatory talks at the beginning of January in Amman under the facilitation of King Abdullah of Jordan and the country’s Foreign Minister, Nasser Judeh.

“I will be there to encourage both sides to re-engage in earnest and create a positive atmosphere for moving forward,” Mr. Ban stated.

Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians stalled in September 2010 after Israel refused to extend its freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory.

That decision prompted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to withdraw from direct talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which had only resumed a few weeks earlier after a two-year hiatus.

The Secretary-General also noted that today marks the one-year anniversary of the uprising in Egypt that led to the removal of the regime of Hosni Mubarak.

“On this important day, I want to congratulate the people of Egypt on their peaceful transition to democracy and their determination to push for continuing change,” he said.

Referring to yesterday’s announcement of a partial lifting of the state of emergency in the country, Mr. Ban encouraged the transitional authorities to pursue the peaceful and early handover of power to civilian government, to uphold human rights, to release political detainees and accelerate the pace of reform.

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