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PM to Ban: Settlement freeze cannot be a precondition
By JPOST.COM STAFF AND TOVAH LAZAROFF
02/01/2012
Meeting in Jerusalem, UN chief calls on Iran to comply with Security Council resolutions, prove nuclear program is peaceful; Netanyahu tells Ban that settlements are a product, not a cause, of the conflict.
 
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with high-level Israeli officials Wednesday, discussing a wide range of security and political issues, among them the recent peace talks that took place in Amman between Israel and the PA.

Ban met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and is also scheduled to meet with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and opposition leader Tzipi Livni before concluding his trip.

During a Jerusalem press conference with Netanyahu, US Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on Iran to comply with all the Security Council resolutions and to prove that their nuclear program was for peaceful purposes.

“It is their responsibility to convince the international community. … They have not quite done so,” he said.

“I have made this quite clear to the Iranian authorities,” he said.

“These issues can be resolved in a peaceful way through dialogue. There is no alternative to a peaceful resolution,” he said.

Ban added that he was particularly concerned by the latest report by the International Atomic Energy Association, which should that Iran’s nuclear program could have a military dimension.

He said he was waiting for additional information from a senior level monitoring team.

Netanyahu also told Ban that a settlement freeze should be discussed in negotiations with Palestinians, not as a precondition for such negotiations.

"This issue is a part of the negotiations, it can't be a precondition," Netanyahu said.

"Settlements are not the crux of the conflict, but one of its outcomes. The conflict started 50 years before there were settlements," Netanyahu said.

Earlier Wednesday, Ban met with President Shimon Peres, who told him that, "The peace negotiations are encountering natural differences. It is not the end of it. It may take time."

Ban also told Peres that he was worried about the possible military aspects of Iran's nuclear program, laid out in a recent IAEA report, and called on Iran to prove that the program is peaceful.

"I have been urging the Iranian authorities to prove that their nuclear program is genuinely for peaceful purposes. I think they have not yet convinced the international community," he said.

“These issues can be resolved in a peaceful way through dialogue. There is no alternative to a peaceful resolution,” he continued.

In his meeting with Lieberman, Ban discussed political and economic issues on both a regional and global level. Lieberman thanked the UN secretary-general for his "unequivocal" stance against recent unilateral Palestinian maneuvers at the UN. The foreign minister added that the PA is not interested in advancing peace negotiations, but rather seeks to sabotage them in an attempt to justify further unilateral actions at the United Nations.

Addressing the threat posed by Tehran to Middle Eastern stability, Lieberman warned Ban that Iran could attempt to take control of Iraq, thereby creating a regional alliance consisting of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. This, he said, would endanger regional security and would pose a particular threat to both Israel and Jordan.

On the day before arriving in Israel from Jordan, Ban called on Netanyahu to give the Palestinians some “goodwill gestures” so the low-level talks that began in Amman last month will continue.

“Of course, it will also be required that the Palestinian Authorities come to [the] dialogue table,” he said Tuesday after meeting in Amman with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.

After visiting Gaza on Thursday, Ban is scheduled to visit the Sapir Academic College near Sderot, which has been the target of numerous Kassam rockets from Gaza. He will then hold meetings with Barak and Livni, and deliver the keynote address at the 12th annual Herzliya Conference.

Herb Keinon and Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.
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