“President Abbas, you have shown an unwavering commitment to achieving the self-determination and an independent State for the Palestinian people,” Mr. Ban said at a joint press conference given by the two men.
“Today, you have explained to me your plans for advancing this goal: unity among Palestinians; negotiations with Israel; a two-State solution; a permanent settlement of all of the issues, including Jerusalem, refugees, borders, and settlements; an end to the conflict with Israel; comprehensive peace between Israel and all Arab countries.”
Mr. Ban told reporters that he had offered President Abbas support for these endeavors. “His vision of peace is consistent with the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. I welcomed President Abbas' commitment to the Road Map, and his desire to advance its implementation,” the Secretary-General said, referring to an outline peace plan put forward by the diplomatic Quartet – the UN, Russian Federation, United States and European Union – for achieving a two-State solution with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace.
“I encourage this new Government, and I very much hope that its actions will show a genuine commitment to the basic principles not only of the Quartet, but of peace,” Mr. Ban said. “Its immediate priorities should be to stabilize the situation in Gaza through releasing the captured Israeli soldier, consolidating the ceasefire, and bringing law and order back to the streets. Such steps would address vital Palestinian interests, and would be strongly welcomed by the international community.”
The Secretary-General said he and President Abbas “also discussed the importance of the Israeli government taking steps to transfer withheld revenue, ease the closure and checkpoints, freeze all settlement activity, remove outposts, and cease construction of the barrier in occupied Palestinian territory.”
He added that he would be encouraging Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on those issues during their scheduled talks tomorrow, “as well as hearing his concerns and plans.”
“Above all, President Abbas and I agreed on the importance of this moment,” the Secretary-General said, citing a unity government that supports President Abbas negotiating with Israel; renewed dynamism in the Arab world based on the Arab Peace Initiative; and the efforts of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to advance dialogue.
The Secretary-General acknowledged the difficulties while voicing cautious optimism. “Progress will be very hard. The obstacles are enormous. Achieving peace will require all parties to go further than they have before. But it can and must be done. And my message to Israel and to the world from here in Ramallah is that I am convinced that President Abbas is ready.”
Addressing himself to the Palestinian people, Mr. Ban pledged the UN's continued support. “I have seen for myself the challenges that the Palestinian people face every day, and I have been moved by what I have seen this morning,” he said.
“My determination to ensure that we continue our support to the Palestinian people has been fortified. So has my conviction that we must find a political solution to this painful conflict. As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I will work tirelessly in that cause.”