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U.N.'s Ban in West Bank pushes for peace talks

By Yahoo! News UK
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U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Israel and the Palestinians on Saturday to restart negotiations as one Palestinian was killed during clashes in the West Bank. Skip related content

Ban also called on the Jewish state to stop settlement building in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, and said the holy city should be the capital for both Israel and a future Palestinian state.

"We have to get negotiations under way," Ban said after meeting Western-backed Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in the West Bank city of Ramallah. "We can and must find a way for Jerusalem to emerge from negotiations as the capital of two states with arrangements for holy sites acceptable to all."

Palestinians, protesting Israel's settlement policy, clashed with Israeli troops near the West Bank city of Nablus. A 16-year-old Palestinian was killed in the violence.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a limited, 10-month freeze on settlement building in the West Bank in November. But the moratorium did not include territory it captured in a 1967 war and annexed to Jerusalem.

The Jewish state sees all of Jerusalem as its capital, a claim that has not won international recognition.

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The United Nations, along with the United States, Russia and the European Union, make up a quartet of Middle East mediators.

The group met in Moscow on Friday and suggested indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians may start in the coming days. The sides have not engaged in negotiations in more than a year.

Also expected in the region this week are Quartet representative Tony Blair and U.S. envoy George Mitchell, who has been spearheading Washington's efforts to revive the peace process and would mediate any indirect talks.

The latest obstacle to the peace talks came last week when Israel announced, during a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, that it would build 1,600 new housing units in a part of Jerusalem it had annexed unilaterally.

The announcement angered Washington and, under pressure, Netanyahu proposed mutual confidence-building measures by Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

The ideas were welcomed by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, but she did not give details of what they included.

In an incident that could further raise tensions, a Palestinian youth was killed and another seriously wounded during a clash with Israeli troops in the West Bank, Palestinian hospital officials said.

The youths had been at a protest in which Palestinians threw stones at Israeli soldiers. Palestinian hospital officials and witnesses said 16-year-old Mohammed Ibrahim was killed by Israeli gunfire.

The Israeli military said the soldiers did not fire live ammunition, but used riot control weapons such as tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the Palestinians who were approaching a nearby Jewish settlement.

Ban is scheduled to meet Israeli leaders on Sunday and also said he would cross into the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, which is under blockade by Israel and Egypt.

"I will go to Gaza tomorrow to express my solidarity with the plight of Palestinian people there and to underscore the needs to help," he said.

(Additional reporting by Hassan Titi and Tom Perry; Editing by Dominic Evans)