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IN MEETING WITH ISRAELI DEFENCE MINISTER, BAN VOICES CONCERN OVER SETTLEMENTS

By UN
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9 December - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today expressed concern over the settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem at a meeting with Israel's Defence Minister Ehud Barak, during which the United Nations chief also raised the issue of freedom of movement for the world body.

Mr. Ban emphasized the need to break the current diplomatic stalemate and the importance of resuming talks between Israel and the Palestinian leadership, according to a read-out of the meeting provided to the press.

The Secretary-General took positive note of the decision by the Government of Israel to allow exports from Gaza, which he sees as essential to revive Gaza's economy, it added.

He also urged Mr. Barak to facilitate additional UN reconstruction work in Gaza, and touched on the issue of the freedom of movement for the UN between Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Also raised during the meeting at UN Headquarters was the Secretary-General's continuing concern at the detention of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured in 2006 in a Palestinian raid from Gaza into Israel who remains in captivity. The UN has repeatedly called for his unconditional release.

Mr. Ban and Mr. Barak also discussed the regional situation, including Israel's recent decision to withdraw its forces from the northern part of the Lebanese village of Ghajar, as well as Iran.