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Israel, Palestine face “hard talks” but there is no other solution - UN chief

He admitted that “no one believes that the longstanding differences between the parties can be resolved overnight or just wiped away”

UNITED NATIONS, July 26 (Itar-Tass) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Israel and Palestine to act “courageously” in order to settle their conflict as soon as possible by pursuing a two-state solution.

“Hard negotiations still lie ahead, but only the parties can make a decision, hard decisions,” Ban said at a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday, July 25.

“I strongly urge the leaders of Palestine and Israel to seize this opportunity and respond positively and courageously so that the two-state solution can be realised as soon as possible,” the U.N. Secretary-General said.

Last Friday, July 19, after three days of exhausting consultations with the Palestinians, Kerry announced that a platform for new talks had been agreed and that the sides would send their delegations to Washington next week.

He said this would be the beginning of direct contacts between Palestinian and Israel.

“We have reached an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. This is a significant and welcome step forward,” Kerry said.

He noted that “candid, private conversations are the very best way to preserve the time and the space for progress and understanding when you face difficult, complicated issues such as Middle East peace.”

At the same time, he admitted that “no one believes that the longstanding differences between the parties can be resolved overnight or just wiped away.”

Kerry pointed out that “the challenges require some very tough choices in the days ahead” and “the road ahead will be difficult and the challenges that the parties face are daunting” but said he was “hopeful because of the courageous leadership shown by President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Both of them have chosen to make difficult choices here, and both of them were instrumental in pushing in this direction.”

They agreed that “the difficult road ahead is worth traveling and that the daunting challenges that we face are worth tackling. So they have courageously recognised that in order for Israelis and Palestinians to live together side by side in peace and security, they must begin by sitting at the table together in direct talks.”

He welcomed “the positive steps that Israelis themselves and Palestinians are taking on the ground and the promise that those steps represent about the possibilities of the future.”

“The path to resolution of this longstanding conflict in this critical corner of the world, that path is not about fate. It’s about choices, choices that people can make. And this is not up to chance. It’s up to the Israeli people and the Palestinian people and no one else,” the secretary of state said.

Direct talks between Israel and Palestine stopped in September 2010 after the former had refused to suspend the construction of new settlements in the West Bank.

On Tuesday, July 23, Russian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin called for supporting the attempt to resume the discussion by holding a ministerial meeting of the Middle East Quartet of international mediators at the earliest opportunity. The meeting may take place in early August during Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s upcoming visit to the United States.