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Ban: Palestinians must unite.

Byline: Daily Star Staff

Summary: <p>Palestinians must be able to show a united front to help revive Middle East peace talks, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said at a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the UN's headquarters in Vienna on Friday.Aa"It will be crucially important that the Palestinian peoples are united among themselves and should be able to carry on these negotiations," he told a news conference in Vienna.

Palestinians must be able to show a united front to help revive Middle East peace talks, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said at a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the UN's headquarters in Vienna on Friday.Aa"It will be crucially important that the Palestinian peoples are united among themselves and should be able to carry on these negotiations," he told a news conference in Vienna.Aa

Ban said that while a seven-year-old Arab League peace initiative provided a cornerstone for negotiations, "at the same time we also value C* bilateral negotiations between Israel and Palestinian authorities."

Hamas and Fatah have been holding Egyptian-brokered talks for months aimed at resolving their long-standing disputes and paving the way for elections next year, but the talks have shown no sign of progress.

Ban said he had high hopes for US President Barack Obama's approach in pushing forward with the peace process. "We will see some positive results coming from the American administration's direct engagement in the Middle East," he said.

Obama's administration is pressing Arab governments for positive gestures toward Israel if it freezes Jewish settlement building on occupied land. Washington hopes this will lead to regional peace talks but Arab states are cool to the idea.Aa

Arab leaders say they remain committed to the Arab Peace Initiative, endorsed at a 2002 Arab League summit, offering Israel recognition in return for withdrawal from all lands Israel occupied in the 1967 war, creation of a Palestinian state and a "just" solution for Palestinian refugees.Aa

Successive Israeli governments have rejected or ignored the offer, saying the return of refugees to areas now inside Israel would destroy the Jewish character of the state.Aa

Separately on Friday, Iran warned the United States to shift from its previous policies on the Middle East conflict.Aa

"We warn the US government and [President Barack] Obama not to fall into the trap laid by former US politicians on the issue of Palestine," Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency.Aa

"The US government should know the new Middle East peace plan cannot ignore Palestinians' rights and that this plan does not secure the least of Palestinians' demands," he said.Aa

Mottaki also insisted that Iran's national interests were tied up with "obtaining Palestinians' rights."Aa

Iran does not recognize Israel and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's frequent verbal attacks on the Jewish state have ratcheted up tension between the two over the past four years.Aa

The Islamic Republic is also a staunch supporter of Palestinian resistance groups and the Lebanese Hizbullah.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Gheit for his part said on Friday that his country wants Tel Aviv to freeze settlements before any resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.Aa

"We have to receive an indication that Israel is ready to apply a very strict moratorium for an extended period of time on not building settlements as to cope with the idea of having a time frame for the negotiations," he said. "If the Israelis say we will have a moratorium for six months, then the timeframe for negotiations has also to be for six months," said Abu al-Gheit, who is currently visiting Sweden. "It has to be a synchronized moratorium."Aa

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected a total freeze on all settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem ahead of the renewal of peace talks, insisting on the need to guarantee "normal life" in settlements which are home to 500,000 Israelis.Aa

The Palestinians condition the return to the negotiating table on a full Israeli construction freeze in occupied territory where they wish to build their future state. With the international community backing the US demand, the Israeli prime minister finds himself trying to placate intense diplomatic pressure while keeping together his right-leaning coalition government.Aa

Netanyahu has insisted in recent days that the heart of the decades-old conflict was not the settlements, but rather the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.Aa

The Egyptian foreign minister underlined that there could be no progress in talks without a synchronized moratorium. He said: "If there would not be a conclusion of an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, the Israelis would start again building settlements claiming that the Palestinians have to accept to continue negotiating."Aa

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, when asked if a partial freeze on settlement would be accepted by the European Union, took a guarded stand. "The important thing is to get the talks started," said Bildt, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union. "We're in contact with different parties of this difficult dialogue and see how it proceeds in the next few weeks. It can't go on forever. There are difficult issues and there is no agreement." -- Reuters, AFP Aa


Four percent of Israelis think Obama is pro-israel


OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Only four percent of Jewish Israelis believe US President Barack Obama's policies are pro-Israel and 50 percent oppose a temporary freeze of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, a poll out on Friday showed.Aa

The survey showed 51 percent considered Obama's administration more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israeli, as compared with 50 percent in June, the Jerusalem Post said.Aa

The percentage of Jewish Israelis who consider Obama as pro-Israel was down to four percent from six percent in the June 19 poll. By comparison, 88 percent of those interviewed for the June survey thought former US president George W. Bush was pro-Israel.Aa

Obama has pressed Israel to freeze settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, causing friction with the close US ally. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted natural growth makes a total halt of housing construction in settlements impossible.Aa

The issue of settlements, which the international community considers illegal, is seen as one of the major hurdles in Middle East peace efforts.Aa

Asked whether they would support a one-year freeze, which has been raised as part of efforts to push forward the hobbled peace process with the Palestinians, 50 percent of the opinion poll's respondents said no and 41 percent said yes.Aa

The Smith Research poll was conducted this week among 500 Jewish Israelis. -- AFP

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Aug 29, 2009
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