Ban Ki-moon has criticized Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory and warned against further "provocations." The UN chief visited Jerusalem and Ramallah on Monday amid fresh clashes over a religious site.
United Nations (UN) chief Ban Ki-moon on Monday criticized Israeli settlement expansion in Jerusalem and warned against further "provocations."
"I am very concerned about the recent announcement of plans to advance settlements in east Jerusalem, which are in clear violation of international law," the UN secretary general said in Jerusalem, where he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.
In September, Israel announced plans to build over 2,500 housing units in Givat Hamatos in east Jerusalem, plans which have been slammed by the US, the EU and the UN.
"I urge the government of Israel to reverse these activities," Ban said.
But the settlement plans were not responsible for the recent 50-day war in Gaza, Netanyahu pointed out.
"Israel is committed to maintaining the status quo exactly as it's been for many decades. What we're seeing is Palestinian extremists who are instigating violence through incitement," Netanyahu said, referring to the Islamist movement Hamas, which is in charge of Gaza.
"The root cause of this summer's outburst of violence was Hamas's rocketing of Israeli cities.
"Hamas is the enemy of all of us who seek peace," the Israeli leader said.
The war in Gaza in June and July left over 2,000 people dead, mostly Palestinian civilians and displaced over a fourth of Gaza's population of 1.7 million and left 100,000 people homeless. Over 70 people were killed on the Israeli side in the 50 days of fighting. Most of them were soldiers.
Ban also visited Ramallah on Monday, a day after a donor conference for the rebuilding of Gaza and hours after clashes between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem.
"I am also deeply concerned by repeated provocations at the holy sites in Jerusalem. These only inflame tensions and must stop," Ban said at a joint news conference with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.
Causes of instability
He called on the sides to "quickly return to the negotiation table with the readiness to make the tough but necessary compromises."
"Unilateral action is no foundation for the future," Ban added.
"The two-state solution is the only way to bring peace to both sides."
sb/kms (AFP, dpa)