UN secretary-general due in Turkey today

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon

January 16, 2009, Friday/ 18:08:00
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to pay a visit to Turkey today as part of an effort to implement an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Palestine.

Ban's visit comes amidst rising tension in the Middle East due to an ongoing Israeli military attack on the Gaza Strip, which has so far killed more than 1,000 people and wounded at least 4,000 others. Ban is scheduled to meet with President Abdullah Gül and later with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to discuss the recent developments in the Israeli military's assault against Gaza. Foreign Minister Ali Babacan is expected to attend both meetings.

The UN Security Council passed a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in Israel's offensive against Gaza earlier this month. The resolution was approved by a 14-0 vote, with the United States abstaining. It was the result of lengthy haggling between Western and Arab states. The resolution "stresses the urgency of and calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza." Apart from a cease-fire, it also calls for the reopening of border crossings into Gaza and for the unimpeded distribution of aid in the territory.

'Gaza death toll 'unbearable'

Meanwhile in Jerusalem, Ban told the Israelis on Thursday that the death toll from fighting in the Gaza Strip had reached an "unbearable point." "The number of casualties has reached an unbearable point," Ban said at a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Jerusalem. The UN chief also expressed "strong protest and outrage" to Israel over the shelling of a UN compound in Gaza City. Ban is demanding an investigation into Thursday's shelling. He said Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told him it was a "grave mistake."

The Palestinian death toll from Israel's air-and-ground offensive has risen to over 1,055 and nearly 5,000 others have been wounded in the brutal onslaught, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza. A Palestinian rights group said 670 of the dead were civilians.

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