Diplomatic activity is intensifying in the Middle East, amid fresh attempts to relaunch the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
New UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Ramallah, where the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is buried. He also expressed confidence in the current Palestinian president.
“My message to Israel and the world from here in Ramallah is that I am convinced that President Abbas is ready,” the UN chief said.
“I welcome and encourage the formation of the national unity government.”
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is also in the region.
But Israel sees little realistic prospect of negotiating peace with Mahmoud Abbas, whose authority is limited by Hamas’s presence in the coalition government.
At an Arab League Summit this week, a land-for-peace offer to Israel is set to be relaunched despite being rejected in the past.
In Bethlehem, where he saw Israel’s controversial separation barrier for himself, Ban Ki-moon reiterated his resolve to work for peace.