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UN chief voices concern over recent developments to Israeli official

By UN

24 February - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today voiced his concerns over the situation in Gaza and recent developments on the ground to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, as the two met at United Nations Headquarters.

“The Secretary-General regretted certain recent developments on the ground, including new demolition orders in East Jerusalem and the inclusion of holy sites in the occupied West Bank on an Israeli heritage list,” spokesperson Martin Nesirky told reporters after the meeting.

Several days ago Israel announced that it was adding the tombs of the biblical patriarch Abraham in Hebron and the biblical matriarch Rachel in Bethlehem to its list of national heritage sites, sparking concern from the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, who warned against moves that could prejudice the resumption of peace talks.

Mr. Serry, who called on the Israeli President today to discuss a number of issues, said he received an assurance from Shimon Peres that Israel intended to fully respect religious rights in places of worship.

In his meeting with Mr. Barak, the Secretary-General also expressed his concern about the situation in Gaza and his disappointment that Israel has not accepted the UN's proposal to kick-start civilian recovery, and underscored the need for Israel to take positive steps on the entry of reconstruction materials into Gaza, Mr. Nesirky said.

The two also discussed ongoing efforts to restart the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, as well as the situation in Lebanon.

In particular, Mr. Ban raised the ongoing discussions on the village of Ghajar and hoped there would be speedy progress on the proposal put forward by the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, for an Israeli withdrawal as called for in Security Council Resolution 1701.

“He also urged an end to Israeli over-flights and expressed his continuing concern at the lack of progress over the disarmament of armed groups in Lebanon,” the spokesperson stated, adding that Mr. Ban further expressed his concern at the recent rhetoric in the region and its potential to escalate tensions.