U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon called Monday for renewed efforts to achieve a two-state solution in the Middle East following last week’s ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
“More than ever, we need a negotiated two-state solution ending the occupation and the conflict,” he said at the inauguration of a new center for interreligious dialogue in Vienna.
“I am determined to ensure that the ceasefire is sustainable. Both sides must adhere to the agreement,” Ban said of the truce achieved last Wednesday between Israel and Hamas after a week of deadly attacks on both sides.
But this was not enough, he said.
“The underlying issues must be addressed. This is critical to regional stability. A just and comprehensive peace is our ultimate goal -- and it is the only way to bring lasting security to all.”
Ban was speaking at the inauguration of the controversial new King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID).
Critics say the Saudi-backed center -- financed by Riyadh and named after its king, despite backing also from Austria, Spain and the Vatican -- will only distract from Saudi Arabia’s lack of religious freedom and do little to bring about real dialogue and concrete results.
But in the light of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis and further violence and religious divisions in Syria and Mali, Ban insisted the KAICIID was still very relevant.
“We need look no further than today’s headlines to understand why this mission is so vital,” he said.
These crises “are just some of the reminders of how important it is to promote long-term mutual understanding that transcends religious, national, cultural and ethnic boundaries and identities.”
Earlier this month, the Vatican joined the international organization for cultural dialogue as a founding observer.
The KAICIID, founded in 2011 and headquartered in Vienna, moves to promote mutual understanding among followers of different religions and cultures.
An official from the Vatican, representing the Holy See and the Catholic Church, joined the group as they convened. The forum was attended by Saudi vice minister of foreign affairs, Prince Abdulaziz Bin Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, as well as delegates from Spain and Austria, also founding members of the group.
The U.N.-recognized non-government organization focuses on interreligious and intercultural dialogue. Its goals include promoting human rights, justice, peace and reconciliation plus acting against the abuse of religion as a means to justify oppression, violence and conflict.
The Vatican’s Father Miguel Angel Ayuso, secretary of the council for interreligious dialogue at the Vatican, said the opportunity to join the KAICIID would enhance international dialogue.
“Dialogue based on respect, mutual understanding and collaboration is a vital necessity for our present and future … As an observer of the Holy See and a member of the Board of Directors for the Catholic Church I will have the opportunity to support the KAICIID in promoting these values,” Ayuso said.
The organization’s board of directors comprises high-level representatives of the major world religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism).