High level visits to region ahead of Middle East peace talks
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, the head of the World Bank Group Robert Zoellick and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle all made separate visits to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories on Wednesday.
During a discussion on Wednesday, the Secretary General repeated his call for Israel to halt settlement building in the West Bank ahead of peace negotiations scheduled for next month in Jordan.
Isaeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded that a freeze in settlement building is not a precursor for any discussions, but something to be addressed during the later stages.
The demand comes as the Israeli government this week issued fresh financial incentives for settlers to move to the West Bank.
Ban then travelled to Ramallah to meet Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas, telling him that the Palestinian Authority should also prioritise negotiations.
Speaking to Westerwelle, President Abbas praised the German government's financial support for Palestinian institutions, but stated that negotiations were contingent on an end to settlement construction in the West Bank and the acceptance by the Israelis of Palestinian statehood.