8 March 2010Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today he hopes the upcoming meeting in the Russian capital of the diplomatic group supporting the Middle East peace process will lead to direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Members of the so-called Quartet, comprising the UN, the European Union, the United States and Russia, are slated to meet in Moscow on 19 March.Mr. Ban, who will be attending the meeting, told reporters at UN Headquarters that the gathering will provide the Quartet with an opportunity “to assess and encourage the earliest possible resumption of the proximity talks which will eventually, I hope, lead to direct negotiations between the parties.” The Roadmap peace plan championed by the Quartet calls for two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.The Secretary-General has repeatedly called for the resumption of the Middle East peace process, which has been stalled for many months.Last month UN political chief B. Lynn Pascoe told the Security Council that international consensus on what it takes to reach a sustainable agreement is strong, and that an active Quartet will be vital to support the process.“We continue to stress the importance of doing everything possible to ensure that negotiations lead in a clear time frame to an agreement resolving all final status issues,” he stated, while also expressing his hope that both sides will agreed to the proposal from US envoy George Mitchell to begin indirect talks with US mediation.Mr. Ban discussed recent developments in the Middle East peace process and the initiation of proximity talks with Vice Prime Minister of Israel Silvan Shalom when they met in New York today. He also regretted the lack of any meaningful steps toward reconstruction and rehabilitation in Gaza one year after the Israeli military offensive there, his spokesperson said after the meeting.Mr. Ban also announced today that he plans to participate in the summit meeting of the League of Arab States, which will be held in Sirte, Libya, on 27 March. “There I will engage in bilateral or group meetings with the Arab leaders, so that both Arab leaders, and the United Nations, and all concerned parties can promote this peace process,” he stated.