UNITED NATIONS - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Israel on Monday to fundamentally change its policies on settlements and prove its commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Addressing a Security Council debate on the Middle East, Ban also demanded an end to Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel and said the Palestinian Authority must develop an effective security structure and state institutions.
But Ban's remarks appeared to focus more on Israel's obligations as he urged the parties and world powers to kick-start a fresh attempt to resume stalled Middle East peace negotiations and achieve a settlement.
At the ministerial-level meeting called by current Security Council president Russia, but boycotted by Israel, speaker after speaker affirmed support for a two-state solution in which a new Palestinian state would exist alongside Israel.
New Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for talks with the Palestinians but has not specifically supported a Palestinian state. Netanyahu is to meet U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on May 18.
Ban spoke of a deep crisis of confidence among people in the region and a vortex of hopelessness in Gaza caused by Palestinian divisions and tensions between Israel and the Hamas militant movement, which controls the territory.
He said Palestinians continue to see unacceptable unilateral actions by Israel in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. These included house demolitions, intensified Jewish settlement activity, settler violence and oppressive movement restrictions, all linked to settlements, he said.
The time has come for Israel to fundamentally change its policies in this regard as it has repeatedly promised to do, but not yet done, Ban said in unusually outspoken comments.
Action on the ground, together with a genuine readiness to negotiate on all core issues, including Jerusalem, borders and refugees, based on Israel's existing commitments, will be the true tests of Israel's commitment to the two-state solution.
A statement later agreed upon unanimously by the 15-nation council also stressed the need for a two-state solution and said negotiations must be built on previous agreements.
The U.N. chief said indiscriminate rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel were unacceptable and must cease.
But he also said Israel must refrain from using excessive force, as he said it had done during its December-January campaign against Gaza. He said Israel's continued closure of the territory did not weaken Israel's adversaries in Gaza.
Israel allows only food and medicine into Gaza. Ban called for the import of glass, cement and other building materials that Israel says Hamas could use for military ends.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said the Obama administration was looking for quick progress in the Middle East. Our interest lies not in a lengthy, drawn-out process but in real results. We must not tarry, she said.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner both called for follow-up to a U.N. report criticizing Israel over damage to U.N. facilities during the Gaza campaign, a report angrily rejected by Israel.
Libyan diplomats said their country was drafting a resolution demanding a broader inquiry into the Gaza fighting. The United States, however, is unlikely to support it.
In a statement, Israeli U.N. Ambassador Gabriela Shalev said her country did not take part in Monday's meeting because it did not believe Security Council involvement would help and because Israel was conducting a policy review.
Diplomats said Russia had called the meeting to maintain Moscow's role on the Middle East stage pending a full-scale Middle East conference in Moscow planned for late this year.