UN chief to seek 'realistic options' for Middle East peace talks

Reuters News
Posted: May 07, 2015 2:00 PM

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday that after a new Israeli government has been sworn in he will investigate whether there are "realistic options" for a return to peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clinched a deal to form a new government on Wednesday just before a deadline expired, but his coalition will rule by the slimmest of majorities in Israel's turbulent parliament.

Netanyahu took a stand against Palestinian statehood during his election campaign. Palestinians seek a state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in 1967.

"Once a new government has been sworn in, the Secretary-General will explore with Prime Minister Netanyahu realistic options for a return to meaningful negotiations on a two state solution," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

He also said Ban was also "deeply concerned by recent announcements by Israeli authorities of plans for 900 settlement units in East Jerusalem which are illegal under international law."

Anti-settlement group Peace Now said on Thursday that Israel was moving ahead with a plan to construct about 900 housing units in Ramat Shlomo, a neighborhood built on West Bank territory captured in the 1967 war and annexed to Jerusalem in a move not recognized abroad. The project had received earlier approval in 2013, and this week it passed through a Jerusalem district planning committee, Peace Now said.

Most countries consider settlements that Israel has built on territory captured in 1967 as illegal and obstacles to Palestinian statehood.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Richard Chang)