UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon once again pressed for Israel to return to talks with Palestinian leaders
Ehud Barak (L), Minister of Defense and Deputy Prime Minister of Israel, shakes hands with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon before their meeting on July 29, at UN headquarters in New York. Barak and Ban discussed the looming UN General Assembly in September when the Palestinian Authority is expecting to launch an initiative to get international recognition for a Palestinian state. © Stan Honda - AFP
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon once again pressed for Israel to return to talks with Palestinian leaders
AFP
Last updated: July 30, 2011

Barak says Israel still looking for peace talks formula

Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that his government is striving to find a formula that would allow for the resumption of peace talks with Palestinian leaders.

Barak on Friday revealed the efforts after meeting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who again pressed for Israel to return to talks and expressed new concern over Israeli settlement building in the occupied territories, a UN spokesman said.

Barak and Ban discussed the looming UN General Assembly in September when the Palestinian Authority is expecting to launch an initiative to get international recognition for a Palestinian state.

The United States and Israel oppose the bid, insisting that an accord to end the Middle East conflict and set up a Palestinian state can only be reached through direct negotiations.

The international Quartet on the Middle East -- the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations -- is trying to arrange new Israel-Palestinian talks but has been unable to agree on a plan.

"We are still trying to find a formula that will enable an understanding between the members of the Quartet in a way that will enable a resumption of negotiations," Barak told reporters.

"I cannot honestly predict that it will happen but we are still trying to do our best to enable it," he added, stressing his belief that direct talks are the only way for a permanent solution.

A UN spokesman said that Barak and Ban "discussed the impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and the situation in the West Bank and Gaza, in Lebanon and the region."

"The secretary general urged an early resumption of meaningful Israeli-Palestinian negotiations," said spokesman Martin Nesirky.

Ban urged greater efforts to end the blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza and "expressed his concern at settlement expansion in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem," said the spokesman.

The Palestinian leadership withdrew from US-brokered talks with Israel at the end of September in protest at Israel's ending of a moratorium on settlement building.

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