(Communicated by the Office of the President of Israel)
President Shimon Peres this morning (Wednesday), 1 February 2012, met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, at the start of the latter’s visit to Israel. The two men held a joint press conference after the meeting.
UN Secy.-Gen. Ban Ki-Moon said, "I am deeply concerned by the latest report of the international atomic energy agency. I have been urging the Iranian authorities to prove that their nuclear program is genuinely for peaceful purposes. I think they have not yet convinced the international community. It is very important that the international community engage in a dialog with the Iranian authorities to resolve this issue peacefully. I urge the Iranians to engage in dialog. There is no alternative to a peaceful resolution of this issue."
President Peres emphasized that "At this time, the UN has a decisive role to play in the war against global terrorism, at the head of which stands Iran. No country is immune from terrorism – not the US, not the European states and not the countries of the Middle East. While Israel welcomes the sanctions, in and of themselves they are not enough. I expect the international community not to take any option off the table, and to take determined action to prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb! Iran finances and uses terrorism. We have witnessed the shipments of weapons and missiles that reach Gaza directly from Tehran and are received by Hamas, and the weapons convoys that go directly to Hizbullah in Lebanon and to Syria as well."
President Peres commented on the current situation in the Middle East and said that "Israel supports future change in the Arab world around us but it must be made certain that the changes are changes for freedom, liberty and economic prosperity and not, as we are now seeing, a change for the benefit of religious extremism, restrictions on freedom and democracy, and deepening poverty. While Israel has no role in the Arab Spring, we are nevertheless obliged to advance peace in our region according to the criterion of two states for two peoples. This principle has the support of a decisive majority of Israelis. Israel is making it possible for the Palestinians to build the infrastructure for the establishment of a Palestinian state, including the establishment of a 15,000-strong Palestinian Authority public security force to fight terrorism and maintain order. As the President and as a man who has spent his entire life fighting for peace, it is clear to me and to my people that we must move forward as quickly as possible with serious, in-depth negotiations that will focus on security and borders and be held far from the limelight. This is in the interests of both sides and we must work to bring it about."
UN Secy.-Gen. Ban Ki-Moon told the President, "It’s a great honor and pleasure for me to visit Israel for the 4th time as the Secretary-General of the United Nations. My visit comes at a critical time where all around us dramatic and vital issues are discussed. Both of us share mutual concern on how to bring peace and security to the region. Unfortunately the two-state solution has not yet materialized and the question is how to create the conditions that will propel the peace process further and spread democracy in the region. I hope that in this visit I will be able to make a contribution to these issues. It is my intention to convey the same message to Abbas tonight and to call both sides to resume negotiations. It is not possible to avoid direct negotiations. We must create a political vision between the two sides, alongside goodwill gestures by both sides on the ground, and steer clear of provocation. I promise you that I and working and speaking in a clear voice with regard to Iran, Hamas in the Gaza strip and the events in Syria."
Regarding Syria, the UN Secy.-Gen. added that "the Security Council engaged and discussed very seriously about the situation in Syria. I know that Security Council members are still engaging to narrow the differences of their opinions they fully understand the seriousness and urgency of these issues. I sincerely hope that they will be able to take necessary action."
President Peres replied, "When I see people being murdered in broad daylight, in the middle of the street – it’s a human tragedy. And I pay my respect to the Arab League that has decided to intervene and to stop this bloodshed. And I do hope the Security Council will take the proper vote. So Mr. Secretary-General, I really wish that you will conclude it properly. I’m speaking as a human being, not as an Israeli."