The Secretary-General will meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders

(Communicated by the Foreign Ministry Spokesman)

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has arrived in Israel for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. He will meet with Palestinian Authority leaders today (25 March) and with Israeli leaders tomorrow.

In Israel he will meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Acting President Dalia Itzik, Vice Premier and Minister for the Development of the Negev and Galilee Shimon Peres, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni, and Chairman of the Opposition Benjamin Netanyahu. During his visit, he will visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial where he will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony in the Yizkor Memorial Hall and participate in a tree planting ceremony in the Forest of the Nations. The Deputy Defense Minister will escort him on a helicopter tour of the area.

Secretary-General Ki-moon was appointed to his position in January 2007. His visit to Israel is the first stage of a Middle East tour, during which he will also participate in the Arab League Summit in Saudi Arabia. This is his first official visit to Israel in his current position. He previously visited Israel as Foreign Minister of South Korea in June 2005, the first South Korean Foreign Minister to visit Israel.

Israel attributes great importance to the visit of the UN Secretary General. The visit will present the opportunity of introducing the challenges facing Israel and Israel’s expectations from the UN, which include the question of the Iranian nuclear program, implementation of UN resolution 1701 and the release of the abducted soldiers, and the smuggling of armaments from Syria and Hizbullah activities in southern Lebanon. Additional issues to be raised include the problems in the Gaza Strip, including the smuggling of armaments and the entry of terrorists into the Strip, and the necessity of the international community to maintain its insistence on the Palestinian Authority’s acceptance of the Quartet principles.