Ban to visit Israel and occupied Palestinian territories later this month

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9 March - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will visit Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip after attending next week's meeting in Moscow on the Middle East peace process, his spokesperson announced today.

The 19 March meeting in the Russian capital will bring together the members of the diplomatic Quartet – comprising the UN, the European Union, the United States and Russia – which support the Roadmap peace plan calling for two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.

UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky confirmed that Mr. Ban is expected to visit Israel, the West Bank and Gaza following the Quartet meeting, saying further details would be forthcoming.

Senior UN officials have voiced concern in recent months over the impasse in negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, with the Secretary-General stating yesterday that he hoped the Moscow meeting will lead to direct talks between the two sides.

Recent developments in the Middle East peace process were also among the issues discussed by Mr. Ban and Israel's Vice Prime Minister, Silvan Shalom, during their meeting in New York yesterday.

The Secretary-General regretted the lack of any meaningful steps toward reconstruction and rehabilitation in Gaza one year after the Israeli military offensive there, according to information provided by his office, and once again called on Israel to ease the closure of border crossings into the territory.