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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon makes surprise visit to Middle East to ease tensions

Following nearly three weeks of deadly unrest, UN chief Ban Ki-moon is on his way to Israel and the Palestinian territories to calm tensions. During his visit, he is due to meet with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has embarked on an visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. Ban's visit follows a wave of violence in Jerusalem and other parts of Israel, as well as the Palestinian territories, amid growing fears of a full-scale Palestinian uprising.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Malki confirmed the impending visit on Palestinian radio. He said that the UN chief was scheduled to meet with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders. The daily newspaper "Times of Israel" confirmed that he was due to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Over the past month, at least nine Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks, most of which were stabbings. In that time, 41 Palestinians were also killed by Israeli fire, including 20 attackers. An Eritrean migrant died on the weekend after being shot and beaten by a mob that mistakenly believed he was a Palestinian attacker.

'Put down the weapons of despair'

In a video statement ahead of his trip, Ban cautioned Palestinians to show restraint.

"I am dismayed - as we all should be - when I see young people, children, picking up weapons and seeking to kill," he said.

"I am not asking you to be passive, but you must put down the weapons of despair."

He also addressed Israelis, saying that he understood their concerns due to the growing deterioration in safety, but stressed that there was no military solution to the situation.

Further diplomatic efforts

US Secretary of State John Kerry is due to meet with Netanyahu in Germany later this week as well as with Palestinian leader Abbas.

"Israel understands the importance of the status quo," he said ahead of the meetings. Kerry also renewed his call for an end to the violence, while adding that "Israel has every right in the world to protect itself."

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also travelled to the region today to meet his Jordanian counterpart in Amman. While there, he stressed that it was important to give the peace process another try.

"I would like to appeal to all those in positions of responsibility not to add insult to injury at this particular point, but try to act with restraint and work towards the calming of tensions," Steinmeier said.

ss/cmk (AFP, AP, dpa)

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