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Ban Encouraged By Israel-Hizbollah Prisoner Swap

Ban Ki-Moon encouraged by prisoner exchange between Israel and Hizbollah

16 July 2008 - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed today's long-anticipated prisoner exchange between Israel and the Lebanese group Hizbollah, following months of United Nations-backed mediation efforts.

Mr. Ban is "deeply satisfied that the humanitarian aspects of Security Council Resolution 1701 (2006) have finally been met today," his spokesperson said in a statement, referring to the resolution which ended the 2006 conflict between Israel and Hizbollah.

"The Secretary-General is looking forward to witnessing further positive moves as envisaged during the negotiations," the statement continued, adding that Mr. Ban has received messages to that effect from both the Israeli Government and from the leadership of Hizbollah.

In addition, he hoped that there will be action soon for the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit and of Palestinian prisoners, as these steps will contribute to improving the overall humanitarian situation in the region.

"I'm very much encouraged by the exchange of prisoners. I hope this will be the beginning of many to come in the future," Mr. Ban told a news conference in Berlin this morning, following a meeting with German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung.

He commended the "leadership and initiative" of his facilitator - a German official - for his role in bringing about today's exchange, in which Israel swapped the bodies of 200 Lebanese and Palestinian fighters and five Lebanese prisoners for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers captured in 2006 - Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. During their meeting, the Secretary-General and Mr. Jung discussed Kosovo, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Darfur and the situation in Georgia/Abkhazia.

Mr. Ban then flew to Bonn, where he received a warm welcome at the Old City Hall. He also addressed UN staff after visiting the campus housing 17 UN agencies and programmes. He returns to New York today.

ENDS

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