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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
25 March 2007

Ramallah, 25 March 2007 - Secretary-General's joint press conference with President Mahmoud Abbas

SG: Thank you, Mr. President, for your warm welcome and kind words of encouragement.

Ladies and gentlemen of the media, President Abbas, it is a great pleasure and honour for me to visit Ramallah again, for the second time, but this is a very meaningful first visit in my capacity as the new Secretary-General of the United Nations. I am already very much impressed and touched by the hard work and firm commitment of the Palestinian people who have been striving under exceptionally difficult circumstances to work and achieve the self determination and independent state for the Palestinian people.

It is also a great source of satisfaction and pleasure to see Mr. President as a negotiator, as a Prime Minister, as a President, and more importantly as the Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization. President Abbas, you have shown an unwavering commitment to achieving the self-determination and an independent state for the Palestinian people.

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.

I offered to President Abbas my support for these endeavours. 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.

We discussed the urgent challenges facing the new Palestinian government. 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. 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.

President Abbas and I 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. I will be encouraging Prime Minister Olmert on those issues tomorrow, as well as hearing his concerns and plans.

Above all, President Abbas and I agreed on the importance of this moment. We have a number of important elements now in play: 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 Secretary Rice of the United States to advance dialogue on the political horizon. 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.

Finally, I want to assure the Palestinian people of the continued support of the United Nations family of agencies and programmes here on the ground. 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. 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. Thank you very much.

Q: [inaudible]

SG: I was humbled and sad by what I have witnessed myself this morning while visiting the Aida Refugee camps and also walls. The division of their daily lives by these barriers has caused many problems and difficulties in their daily living as well as their opportunities for education, sanitation and all other problems. The General Assembly has requested an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice and the ICJ has given their advisory opinion to the General Assembly. And the GA again took that resolution. I, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, will do [all I can] to facilitate all the implementation of the established framework of the United Nations.

Q: [inaudible]

SG: As I stated earlier, I welcome and encourage the formation of the National Unity Government. I know that there are some different interpretations and expectations from the part of the international community. But I see generally, the international community is now welcoming the development of the situation and the formation of the National Unity Government as a welcoming development of situation.

I expect that with the formation of the National Unity Government, the leaders of this government will abide by the principles laid out by the Quartet. This is not the principles only of the Quartet, but of the peace and of the international community. I understand that this will be also discussed among the leaders of Arab States during the forthcoming League of Arab States Summit Meeting. I again expect that this formation of the National Unity Government will create the politically favorable atmosphere and I also expect the international community to encourage facilitating the ongoing peace process in the Middle East.

Q: [inaudible]

SG: First of all, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I support all of the Security Council Resolutions and General Assembly Resolutions adopted thus far. As for my future plans about the Hamas Government at this time, I do not have any plans to meet with Prime Minister Haniyeh or other Hamas cabinet ministers. I think the political atmosphere is not fully right. But as one of the principles of the Quartet, the Quartet has taken the position to pronounce the wait-and-see attitude. We expect that the National Unity Government will perform, meeting the expectations of the international government. At the same time, I'd like to make it clear that I welcome the formation of the National Unity Government.

Q: [inaudible]

SG: Your question, first of all, I'd like to make it quite clear that the United Nations position to any ongoing peace process in the Middle East, including the Israeli and Palestinian relationship, is based on fair and objective and impartial [points]. It is not biased. It is also based on also practical and realistic political circumstances. I have explained it quite clear about the position of the United Nations vis-а-vis this National Unity Government.

I sincerely hope that by meeting the expectations of the international community on all those principles, I will be able to meet with National Unity Government leaders including Prime Minister Haniyeh as soon as possible when the political atmosphere is right. Thank you very much.

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