Thu, January 15, 2009
World > Middle East > Israeli assault on Gaza

UN chief embarks on Mideast tour amid intensive Gaza talks

2009-01-14 20:07:04 GMT2009-01-15 04:07:04 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

CAIRO, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in the Middle East for a regional tour on Wednesday as intensive talks among parties concerned were being held in a bid to help reach a ceasefire in the embattled Palestinian territory of Gaza Strip.

During his stay in Egypt, Ban renewed his call for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, where more than 1,000 Palestinians have been reportedly killed in the past 19 days of Israeli offensive against the Palestinian enclave.

Shortly after his arrival, Ban held talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, reviewing the latest developments of the Gaza crisis and discussed an Egyptian initiative aiming at putting an end to the conflict between Israel and Hamas-led Palestinian militant groups in Gaza.

"I repeat my call for an immediate and durable ceasefire (in Gaza)," Ban said at a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit following talks with Mubarak.

Ban, who arrived in Egypt on Wednesday morning, came to the Middle East as part of the UN efforts to push for the implementation of a UN Security Council resolution on Gaza and help reach a ceasefire in the coastal strip as soon as possible.

On Thursday, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1860, calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza "leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces."

On Tuesday, the UN Security Council voiced its support to the Middle East tour by the UN chief and the regional initiatives, proposed by Egypt and other Middle East countries, in their joint efforts to bring both Israel and Hamas into full implementation of the UN Security Council resolution, which went unheeded by the two warring sides.

After his stop in Egypt, Ban travelled to Jordan in the afternoon and he is also scheduled to visit Israel, the Palestinian territories, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Kuwait to continue his diplomatic efforts to strive for an early end to the Gaza fighting.

Ban's stay in Egypt, the first leg of his Mideast tour, came on the same day that Hamas reacted "favorably" to the Egyptian initiative calling for an immediate ceasefire in the embattled Gaza Strip.

According to the Egyptian MENA news agency, an Egyptian official source said Wednesday that Hamas responded to the Egyptian drive following talks between Egyptian mediators and Hamas representatives in the past three days.

Earlier in the day, a Hamas delegation left here for Damascus following talks with Egyptian officials.

During the talks with Hamas representatives, Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman explained the three-point ceasefire plan proposed by President Mubarak on Jan. 6.

The Egyptian proposal calls for an immediate ceasefire for a limited period to allow humanitarian aid to reach Gaza and give Egypt time to continue its efforts to help reach a lasting truce.

Egypt would invite both Israel and the Palestinians for negotiation and help resume the inter-Palestinian reconciliation talks, according to the proposal.

Egypt will continue exerting efforts to contact with all parties concerned to reach a ceasefire in Gaza "as soon as possible," the source added.

Meanwhile, the Gaza-based news agency of "Ramattan" quoted senior Hamas sources as saying that the movement, which rules the coastal enclave, has accepted the Egyptian ceasefire initiative between Hamas and Israel.

A high-ranking Israeli delegation, which had talks with Egyptian officials last week in Cairo, is reportedly to return to the Egyptian capital soon to meet with Egyptian mediators for indirect talks with Hamas.

According to the latest report, some 1,017 Palestinians have been killed and 4,600 others wounded so far.

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