Security Council backs Ban's Gaza initiative
The UN Security Council on Tuesday expressed strong support for UN chief Ban Ki-moon's upcoming Middle East tour to press for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, France's UN Ambassador said.UNITED NATIONS - "Everybody supported the role the secretary general can play...in getting an immediate ceasefire and for implementation of (Security Council) Resolution 1860," Jean-Maurice Ripert, the council chair this month, told reporters.
"We think the timing (of Ban's visit) is right. There are very important initiatives on the ground that could help," he added, referring notably to Egypt's efforts to broker a truce deal between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian movement which controls Gaza.
Ripert spoke at the end of closed-door council consultations during which Ban briefed the diplomats on what he hopes to achieve during his tour.
At least 950 Palestinians, including some 280 children, have been killed since Israel launched its military offensive in Gaza December 27 to stop rocket firing by Palestinian militants.
On the Israeli side, 10 soldiers and three civilians have been killed in combat or by rocket attacks.
The UN boss was to leave later Tuesday for successive visits to Egypt, Israel, the West Bank city of Ramallah, Jordan, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Kuwait, where he was to attend an Arab League summit next Monday.
The council meeting was the first since the 15-member body last week called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza leading to the withdrawal of Israeli troops. Both Israel and Hamas have failed to comply.
Last week Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak proposed an immediate ceasefire and allowing humanitarian aid into the besieged Palestinian enclave as well as ending arms smuggling between Egypt and Gaza.