Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Calling today’s exchange of prisoners by Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas a “significant humanitarian breakthrough,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he hoped it would have a far-reaching and positive impact on the stalled Middle East peace process. In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban noted that “he has long called for the end of unacceptable captivity of [Israeli soldier] Gilad Shalit and has also called for the release of Palestinian prisoners.” Hamas today released Mr. Shalit, who had been held captive since June 2006, in exchange for the release of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners by Israel. The first 477 of those prisoners were released today.
Responding to a reporter’s question in Geneva, Mr. Ban said he was very encouraged by today’s actions and voiced hope that the two parties will return to negotiations so they can realize the vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. In the statement Mr. Ban thanked Egypt and Germany for their contributions to the process that led to the prisoner exchange. “In the aftermath, the Secretary-General hopes that more far-reaching steps will be taken to end the closure of Gaza and enable reconstruction. He continues to call in the same context for an end to the smuggling of weapons and a sustained calm between Israel and Gaza.”
(UN Press Release)