UN chief invites Itzik join 'quest for peace'

Ban Ki-Moon: Act now or face "renewed violence and radicalism."

Ban Ki-Moon 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Ban Ki-Moon 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said Monday that resolving the Middle East conflict was a fundamental principle for him. The UN could not stand by and watch Israel's security continue to be threatened, Ban added, nor could it watch Palestinian self-determination and statehood being denied. Ban emphasized that while there was renewed dynamism to revive the peace process, "time is not on our side." If something were not done now, he warned, the door would be left open to "renewed violence and radicalism." Ban told Acting President Dalia Itzik that he was glad she was making "history" as Israel's first woman parliament speaker and acting president. "Now that we find ourselves together again," Ban told her, "maybe we can make more history in our common quest for peace." Referring to Itzik's comment that the UN was not always a comfortable environment for Israel, Ban pledged "to see that Israel enjoys fair and equal treatment in all UN bodies." He also pointed out that the UN General Assembly's condemnation of Holocaust denial and its designation of an annual Holocaust Remembrance Day made Jews feel more at home in the UN than would have been possible several years ago. Itzik also told Ban that Israel had not yet received an "iota" of information on kidnapped reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, and only inadequate reports about Cpl. Gilad Schalit. Ban said that he was fully aware of the plight of the kidnapped soldiers and their families and said he would do all that he that he could to alleviate their suffering. Ban told The Jerusalem Post that he did not have a time frame for the return of Israel's kidnapped troops, but said that he would do his best. Later, Itzik referred to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's threat to erase Israel from the face of the earth. Israel takes such declarations very seriously, she said. "We are not concerned with the psychology of the Iranian president, but with [Iran] developing nuclear weapons." The only way to stop this dangerous process, stated Itzik, was if the international community presented a united front against Iran. The UN Security Council's decision on Saturday to tighten sanctions against Iran was a step in the right direction, Itzik said, but the time had come for the international community to replace words with deeds. "When you leave here," Itzik told Ban, "take with you the message that Israel has a strong desire for peace and is willing to pay a heavy price for [it] while remaining alert to every danger to its existence." However, Itzik said, "We do not have the luxury of allowing ourselves to become weak - not even once."