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27 March 2010Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on leaders gathered at the Arab League Summit in Libya to support indirect negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians with a common aim of resolving all final issues within 24 months. “There is no alternative to negotiations for a two-State solution,” the Secretary-General said today in his address in the city of Sirte. “I am aware that regional confidence in the Israeli Government is very low, but there is no alternative to getting the parties to the negotiating table and testing their commitment,” he added, noting his concern about an outbreak of violence yesterday near the Gaza border. “For the United Nations, Gaza is a priority,” Mr. Ban said, calling for the lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip which has created an “unacceptable and unsustainable” situation on the ground. Mr. Ban visited the area last weekend following the Quartet meeting – comprised of the UN, the European Union (EU), the US and Russia – held in Moscow. Calling for an end to the 1967 occupation, Mr. Ban reiterated his condemnation of settlement activity in East Jerusalem, describing the settlements as “illegal.” “Like all of you, I was deeply dismayed when Israel advanced planning to build 1600 housing units in East Jerusalem. There are several other recent unilateral actions as well,” Mr. Ban said noting Israel”s recent announcement to construct another 20 dwellings and tensions surrounding the Al-Aqsa mosque, among others.He added that while in Gaza, he called publicly for non-violence, a prisoner exchange and Palestinian unity, and singled out Egypt for “its important efforts for Palestinian reconciliation.” Mr. Ban also said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had made it personally clear to him that he is ready to discuss many of these issues. “It is crucial for the international community and the Arab countries to help create a favourable atmosphere in which the talks can succeed. Let that be our common commitment.” Turning to the broader region, the Secretary-General said that while he was encouraged by the improvement in relations between Lebanon and Syria, he was concerned about the escalation in rhetoric and tension and called for the implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions, particularly the 2006 text that calls for an end to hostilities between Hizbollah and Israel. The Secretary-General also called on the international community to support the new Government in Iraq. On Somalia, he called on Arab leaders to help the people there win back stability in their country, by supporting the Transitional Federal Government and the African Union Mission, AMISOM, and highlighted next month”s meeting of the International Contact Group, which the Arab League had agreed to host ahead of the May recovery conference in Turkey.Mr. Ban also noted that Sudan will hold elections next month and referenda next year, and thanked Qatar for its efforts to settle the conflict in the Darfur region. Calling the Arab League “a trusted partner of the United Nations,” the Secretary-General highlighted the progress made in Arab countries on development, climate change and women”s issues, but stressed that more could be done. He later told reporters in Sirte that despite frustrations, it is crucially necessary that Middle East negotiations continue. “Each time when bad things happen, if dialogue is halted or suspended, that will only help all the extremists gain power,” the Secretary-General told journalists. He emphasized the strong determination he had seen firsthand by the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people, led by President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, to build positive facts on the ground, despite the occupation. The Secretary-General also told reporters that President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad had agreed to his proposal to establish a UN Trust Fund to expedite the $4 billion in pledges made in Sharm El Sheikh last year for the reconstruction of Gaza. Mr. Ban also said he has been encouraging the Government of Israel to do more to empower the Palestinian Authority and was hopeful that some progress “can be made on this soon.”While in Libya, Mr. Ban is also holding a series of bilateral meetings with leaders from across the region. He met yesterday with Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, and with President Abbas, to whom he had emphasized “our commitment” to negotiations and to resolving all final details within 24 months. Last night, the Secretary-General spoke to the Arab League”s Follow up Committee on the Arab Peace Initiative.