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20 Mar, 2010 14:34

Israel must stop its expansion in occupied territory – UN Sec. Gen.

Ban Ki-moon has visited Palestine for talks with PM Salam Fayyad, reports news agency Itar-Tass with reference to TV channel Al Jazeera. The trip comes shortly after a Mideast Quartet session in Moscow.

In Palestine, the UN Secretary General attended an observation point near the Palestinian city of Ramallah to see a West Bank settlement which currently houses up to 11,000 Israelis.

Ban Ki-moon described the building of new Israeli homes as illegal and said that Israel should improve the situation in Palestine to make an independent Palestine state a reality.

The message comes shortly after international mediators condemned Israeli expansion in the occupied Palestine territories at the Moscow Quartet meeting.

Ban Ki-moon also announced that Israel and the Palestinian National Administration have agreed to start non-direct talks in the future.

At a joint press-conference, Palestine PM Salam Fayyad said that the world community can play a very important role in the formation of an independent Palestinian state. In this respect, he stressed the importance of Mr. Ban’s visit to the area.

The next planned leg of Ban Ki-moon’s Middle East tour is Israel, where he is to hold talks with President Shimon Peres. Then he is expected to visit the Gaza Strip, and will be among the first international visitors to be admitted into Gaza since last year's war.

The international diplomatic efforts come as tensions between the Palestinians and the Israeli military remain high.

New waves of clashes have hit the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem after Israel announced last week its controversial plan to build 1,600 more homes in East Jerusalem.

At least 12 people were injured after Israeli airstrikes hit Gaza's airport and nearby border tunnels late on Friday, reports news agency Itar-Tass.

The strike comes in response to recent rocket fire from Palestinian territory.

In addition to the settlement expansion, Israel has come under sharp criticism from the international community as of late for keeping Gaza under a strict blockade.

Mr. Ban expressed his concerns about the humanitarian situation in Gaza and said he hopes Israel will allow UN humanitarian aid to enter the region.