UN chief calls for Netanyahu-Abbas talks

UN Secretary-General says it's for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to meet face-to-face to lower tensions over terror wave.

Ben Ariel, Canada ,

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday said that it was time for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to meet face-to-face to lower tensions over the current terror wave.

"I strongly suggested and urged them to sit down together," Ban told reporters after his return from the Middle East, where he met separately with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

"There is no substitute to direct talks," said Ban, who was quoted by the AFP news agency.

Ban stressed the need for a de-escalation in the region, saying that "the level of incitement is utterly unacceptable."

He expressed concern that tensions around the Temple Mount in Jerusalem riskedinjecting a religious dimension to the conflict "that could be exploited by extremists on both sides, with potentially dangerous regional implications."

Ban had earlier warned that a "dangerous escalation" could lead to a full-scale Palestinian uprising. He reported to the Security Council on Wednesday that he was "not optimistic" following his talks in the region.

But he said Friday that "despite the anger and polarization, there is still time to step back from the brink."

He exhorted both Netanyahu and Abbas to take careful steps toward de-escalation.

Ban said it was "critical that Israel exercise maximum restraint and make sure that security measures are properly calibrated, so that they do not breed the very frustrations and anxieties which perpetuate violence."

And he said he had urged Abbas "to harness the energy and passion of the people, particularly young people, towards a peaceful direction" rather than "resorting to violent means."

Ban said that his special envoy for the peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, would visit both Israel and the PA soon "to explore significant steps that each side can take to restore confidence and move towards an end to occupation and the establishment of a viable, sustainable Palestinian state."

In his meeting Tuesday with Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister told the UN chief that Abbas was "fanning the flames," citing recent comments by Abbas in which he said he "welcomes every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem."

Rejecting accusations by some that Israel was using "excessive force" in stopping terrorist attackers, and in dealing with violent riots, Netanyahu insisted: "In the face of this terrorism Israel is acting as any democracy would to defend its citizens. We are not... using excessive force."

Ban also met with opposition leader MK Yitzhak Herzog, who told the UN chief that the world cannot be silent in the face of the terrorist attacks against Israelis.

"Silence or moderate reactions of the world could be interpreted as support for terror. It should be made clear to the Palestinians that the road of terrorism leads to a dangerous deadlock," said Herzog.

Netanyahu has said he would be willing to meet with Abbas, but the PA chairman has refused the meeting. In fact, the PA’s foreign minister on Thursday imposed conditions on a meeting between Netanyahu and Abbas.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)