VIENNA, (Reuters) – Palestinians must be able to show a united front to help revive Middle East peace talks, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday.
“It will be crucially important that the Palestinian peoples are united among themselves and should be able to carry on these negotiations,” he told a news conference in Vienna.
Ban said that while a seven-year-old Arab League peace initiative provided a cornerstone for negotiations, “at the same time we also values … bilateral negotiations between Israel and Palestinian authorities”.
Hamas, the Islamist group which has controlled Gaza since defeating the forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007, opposes Abbas’s readiness to negotiate peace with Israel.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration is pressing Arab governments for positive gestures toward Israel if it freezes Jewish settlement building on occupied land.
Washington hopes this will lead to regional peace talks but Arab states are cool to the idea.
Arab leaders say they remain committed to an initiative, endorsed at a 2002 Arab League summit, offering Israel recognition in return for withdrawal from all lands Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East war, creation of a Palestinian state and a “just” solution for Palestinian refugees.
Successive Israeli governments have rejected or ignored the the offer, saying the return of refugees to areas now inside Israel would destroy the Jewish character of the state.
Still, Ban said he had high hopes for Obama’s approach in pushing forward with the peace process.
“We will see some positive results coming from the American administration’s direct engagement in the Middle East,” he said.