May be last chance for Middle East peace - UN chief
THE CHANCE of achieving a lasting peace in the Middle East may soon be lost forever, United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-Moon has warned.
The “door may be closing, for good” on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said adding that the continued growth of Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank undercuts peace.
Mr Ban’s comments followed earlier remarks by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who said that Israel had, as he put it, no roots in the Middle East and would be “eliminated”.
“Fundamentally we do not take seriously the threats of the Zionists,” he told reporters outside the confines of the General Assembly, in apparent reference to the possibility of foreign military intervention to halt Iran’s nuclear programme. “We have all the defensive means at our disposal and we are ready to defend ourselves.”
The Iranian leader is due to speak at the assembly today and appeared to pay little heed to a plea from Mr Ban who asked him to avoid incendiary rhetoric in the Middle East.
The United States branded his comments “disgusting, offensive and outrageous”.
Addressing the assembly, Mr Ban spoke of his Middle East fears. “The continued growth of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory seriously undermines efforts towards peace. We must break this dangerous impasse,” he said.
After criticizing Israeli settlement building, Mr Ban told the assembly: “I also reject both the language of delegitimisation and threats of potential military action by one state against another. Any such attacks would be devastating.”
There will be particular interest in what President Ahmadinejad says to the assembly today.
At previous UN sessions, he questioned the Holocaust and the United States account of the September 11th, 2001, attacks.
“Iran has been around for the last seven, 10 thousand years,” he told reporters.
“They [the Israelis] have been occupying those territories for the last 60 to 70 years, with the support and force of the westerners. They have no roots there in history,” he said, referring to the founding of the modern state of Israel in 1948.
“We do believe that they have found themselves at a dead end and they are seeking new adventures in order to escape this dead end. Iran will not be damaged with foreign bombs,” said Mr Ahmadinejad, speaking though an interpreter at his Manhattan hotel.
“We don’t even count them as any part of any equation for Iran. During a historical phase, they represent minimal disturbances that come into the picture and are then eliminated.”
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, responded thus: “Ahmadinejad showed again that he not only threatens the future of the Jewish people, he seeks to erase our past. Three thousand years of Jewish history illustrate the clear danger of ignoring fanatics like Iran’s president, especially as he inches closer to acquiring nuclear weapons.” – (Reuters)