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Ban Ki-moon To Attend Mideast Peace Conference

Secretary-General to attend Middle East peace conference next week

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today announced plans to attend next week's Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, United States, voicing hope that the talks will provide the impetus for final status negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

But in a briefing to an informal meeting of the General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Ban said he remained concerned by the prevailing humanitarian situation inside the Gaza Strip, where the economy has deteriorated since many border crossings into Israel were closed earlier this year in response to intra-Palestinian fighting.

The Secretary-General also plans to participate in a meeting in Washington on Monday of the Middle East Quartet, the diplomatic grouping that comprises the UN as well as the European Union, Russia and the US, his spokesperson Michele Montas said.

Mr. Ban used his address to the General Assembly meeting today to brief Member States on a wide range of issues, from climate change to the UN budget and from the situation in the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur to the recent cyclone in Bangladesh.

"Last week could be called a moment of epiphany on climate change - for me personally, as I visited South America and Antarctica, and for the international community, with the launch of the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)," he said.

Warning of the perils of global warming, he said: "In the ice shelves of Antarctica, the glaciers of Torres del Paine and the rainforests of the Amazon, I saw up close how some of the most delicate and precious treasures of our planet are being threatened by the actions of our own species."

Turning to the Capital Master Plan (CMP), the blueprint for renovating UN Headquarters, he reassured Member States that the entire process will be conducted to ensure maximum transparency, visibility and adherence to the existing UN rules on procurement.

Mr. Ban voiced hope that the General Assembly's fifth committee, which deals with budgetary matters, would find agreement on a resolution supporting the revised strategy for the CMP.

He also stressed that his approach to strengthening the UN Secretariat would focus equally on the three pillars of peace and security, development and human rights, and not on one pillar at the expense of the other two.

"I am making it a priority to scale up efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) around the world, in Africa in particular," Mr. Ban added, referring to the set of ambitious anti-poverty targets which world leaders agreed to strive to reach by 2015.


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