UN chief could visit Ramallah by end of January

Ban Ki-Moon agrees "in principle" to WB visit; expected to focus ME tour on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny)
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny)
UNITED NATIONS  - UN chief Ban Ki-moon has agreed "in principle" to visit the West Bank's Ramallah during his tour of the Middle East later this month, Palestinian UN observer Riyad Mansour told reporters Friday.
While on his tour, Ban is expected to focus on, among other issues, the recent Israeli-Palestinian peace talks being hosted by Jordan. Peace negotiators from the two sides met on Monday in Amman, their second round of face-to-face talks in the stalled peace talks.
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"I'm very much encouraged by this meeting between... Palestinians and Israelis in Jordan," Ban told reporters.
The UN chief travels to Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates this month. During his three-day visit to Lebanon next week, the Ban plans to meet with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and commanders of the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon UNIFIL, UN officials said.
Ban did not say whether Syria would be on his agenda in Lebanon and the UAE, though one UN official said it would be a key topic of discussion. Ban said he condemned "the terrorist bombing in which many people were killed and injured today in the Syrian capital."
He added that he was "gravely concerned about the deteriorating situation in Syria, where thousands have lost their lives since last March and people continue to be killed each day."
Earlier this week Ban discussed with Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani an Arab League request for UN help to train observers in Syria, where a 10-month government crackdown on pro-democracy protesters has killed at least 5,000 people, according to UN figures.
Syrian activists have said that the Arab League teams did not have enough access and were escorted by Syrian authorities, who were manipulating them and hiding prisoners in military facilities.
After meeting Ban, Sheikh Hamad acknowledged that the Arab League monitors had made "mistakes."
The UN Security Council plans to discuss an Arab League progress report on its monitoring mission in Syria on Tuesday. European and US officials have urged the council to take up the issue of Syria again.
In October, Russia and China vetoed a European-drafted resolution that would have condemned Syria and threatened it with possible sanctions. Russia recently presented its own draft resolution on Syria but has made no moves to revise it in a way that would make it acceptable to US and European delegations.