UN Sec-Gen Visits Arafat’s Grave,
Meets Parents of Terrorists

By Ezra HaLevi

(Israel NN) United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Israel, paying tribute to dead PLO chief Yassir Arafat but refusing to meet with Hamas officials. Ban arrived and met with Fatah chief and PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas

The secretary-general praised Abbas for his faction’s participation in the unity government but refrained from making any commitments. “We will have to wait and see how the new government accepts the international conditions,” he said. "I expect that with this formation of the national unity government, the leaders of this government will abide by the principles laid out by the Quartet,” he said, referring to the requirements set out by Russia, America, the EU and the UN with regard to renouncing terrorism and recognizing the Jewish state.

PA Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti told an Arabic radio station that Ban’s meeting with Abbas was an official recognition of the Hamas-led PA government. "This government is a single team," Barghouti said. "Whoever meets with one member is meeting with the entire government."

Earlier, Ban visited Bethlehem and the Gush Etzion region south of Jerusalem. He said there that the wall being built by Israel does not “serve the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority” and called for its removal.

Ban later met with the parents of PA Arabs serving time in Israeli prisons for involvement in terrorist activity.

The secretary-general also visited the grave of Yassir Arafat in Ramallah. He laid a wreath of white flowers on the site before closing his eyes in meditation. Ban will meet Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and be taken on a tour of the Yad VaShem Holocaust Museum’s Holocaust Art section by government officials.

This will be Ban’s second visit to the museum, as he was taken during a state visit while serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of South Korea.

Articles Related to the UN Secretary General’s Visit:

** UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Official Visit to Israel
** UN Secretary-General to Meet Israeli and Palestinian Leaders

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
on Official Visit to Israel

(IFM) U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has arrived in Israel for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. He will meet with Palestinian Authority leaders and with Israeli leaders.

In Israel he will meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Acting President Dalia Itzik, Vice Premier and Minister for the Development of the Negev and Galilee Shimon Peres, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni, and Chairman of the Opposition Benjamin Netanyahu. During his visit, he will visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial where he will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony in the Yizkor Memorial Hall and participate in a tree planting ceremony in the Forest of the Nations. The Deputy Defense Minister will escort him on a helicopter tour of the area.

Secretary-General Ki-moon was appointed to his position in January 2007. His visit to Israel is the first stage of a Middle East tour, during which he will also participate in the Arab League Summit in Saudi Arabia. This is his first official visit to Israel in his current position. He previously visited Israel as Foreign Minister of South Korea in June 2005, the first South Korean Foreign Minister to visit Israel.

Israel attributes great importance to the visit of the UN Secretary General. The visit will present the opportunity of introducing the challenges facing Israel and Israel’s expectations from the UN, which include the question of the Iranian nuclear program, implementation of UN resolution 1701 and the release of the abducted soldiers, and the smuggling of armaments from Syria and Hizbullah activities in southern Lebanon. Additional issues to be raised include the problems in the Gaza Strip, including the smuggling of armaments and the entry of terrorists into the Strip, and the necessity of the international community to maintain its insistence on the Palestinian Authority’s acceptance of the Quartet principles.

UN Secretary-General to Meet
Israeli and Palestinian Leaders

By Robert Berger

JERUSALEM (VOA) — The Secretary-General of the United Nations has arrived in Israel for separate talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. The Middle East peace process and the fate of three kidnapped Israeli soldiers are topping the agenda.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hopes to give a boost to the stalled peace process during a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. He spoke upon arrival at the airport in Tel Aviv. "The United Nations has had crucial political and operational roles in the Middle East for more than 60 years. We were there at Israel’s creation and I would dearly wish to be there again when a comprehensive solution to the conflict is achieved," he said.

Mr. Ban will hold separate meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. But the Secretary-General disappointed both sides from the outset.

His decision not to meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh drew angry reaction from the ruling Islamic militant group Hamas, which described it as "discrimination." Hamas agreed to share power with Mr. Abbas and other moderates in a national unity government that assumed power a week ago. The group said the new government represents the entire Palestinian people and the UN is supposed to be a non-political organization that represents all countries.

Israel, on the other hand, was hoping that Ban would boycott the Palestinian government. Israel refuses to deal with the new regime because Hamas rejects key international demands for lifting crippling sanctions–namely, renunciation of violence and recognition of the Jewish state.

Israel does not see the U.N. as a key mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a role that has traditionally been played by the United States. But Israeli officials believe the Secretary-General can play an important role in achieving the release of three kidnapped soldiers-one held by Hamas in Gaza and two others held by Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz made that clear when he greeted MR. Ban at the airport. Peretz said Israel is confident that Mr. Ban will do everything he can to implement U.N. Resolution 1701 which calls for the return of the captive soldiers to their homes in Israel.