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U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday urged Israel and Hamas to respect their cease-fire but said only mutual recognition of Israel’s right to exist and an independent Palestine could ensure permanent peace in the region.

Ban commented during ceremonies launching a Saudi-sponsored and funded center in Vienna meant to promote dialogue between the world’s main religions. Ban’s pointed remarks were in contrast with other speakers who spoke in general terms about the need for religious understanding.

“I am determined to ensure that the cease-fire is sustained,” he said about last week’s agreement between Israel and Hamas committing both sides to stop hostilities and easing concerns of an Israeli invasion of Gaza.

Ban said that while both sides must adhere to the cease-fire, the ultimate goal in the region had to be a “two-state solution ending the (Israeli) occupation and the conflict,” adding: “This is critical to regional stability.”

The U.N. chief also said he is concerned about the destruction of religious artifacts by extremists in Mali, citing it as an example of the need to “promote long-term mutual understanding that transcends religious, national, cultural and ethnic boundaries.”

More here.

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