U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday Israel and the Palestinians were running out of time to solve their conflict and ought to give “highest priority” to resuming stalled peace talks.
Ban, wrapping up a two-day visit to the region, said he had pushed for faster progress in separate meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
“Our highest priority must be to return to negotiations, not merely procedural talks but genuine and substantive neogations to resolve the core issues,” Ban said in his speech in Herzliya, a city near Tel Aviv.
U.S.-brokered negotiations between the sides collapsed in 2010 over a dispute about Jewish settlement building in land Palestinians seek for a state.
Ban said he would “spare no efforts” to help the sides negotiate a settlement involving the creation of a separate Palestinian state alongside Israel.
“I believe that time is running out,” Ban added.
He called on the Palestinians to address Israeli security concerns and for Israel to “engage seriously on territory”.
Abbas, as a condition for negotiations, has demanded that Israel agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state on all lands occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.
Netanyahu has refused to accept that request and has balked at the Palestinians’ demands to freeze settlement.
Five sessions of exploratory talks ended in Jordan on Jan. 25 and Palestinian officials said Abbas planned to consult an Arab League follow-up committee next week on what to do next.
Earlier on Thursday, dozens of Palestinians threw shoes, sticks and stones at Ban’s convoy as it crossed into the Gaza Strip. They said they were protesting against what they saw as a slight against Palestinians jailed in Israel.
Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Andrew Heavens