4 January 2009Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said that the United Nations has an important role to play in halting the violence in Gaza, expressing regret that the Security Council did not reach agreement yesterday evening on how to end the conflict. Despite the 15-member body’s lack of concurrence during its emergency session which took place hours after Israel launched a ground offensive into Gaza, Mr. Ban – who is scheduled to meet with Arab leaders tomorrow at UN Headquarters – said that he is pressing ahead with diplomatic efforts. “Given the crucial juncture at which we have arrived in the search for a ceasefire, I appeal to all members of the international community to display the unity and commitment required to bring this escalating crisis to an end,” he said in a statement issued by his spokesperson. The Secretary-General said that he has recalled Robert Serry, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, to New York to brief him on the situation on the ground as well as political efforts to bring an end to the clashes. “Meanwhile I remain extremely concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation on the ground,” he said. “We are in close contact with the Israeli authorities to press them to open not only the Kerem Shalom crossing, but also Karni and Nahd Oz, to allow in, particularly, wheat grain and fuel for the power plant, as well as other essential supplies.” Israel has cited rocket and other attacks by militants in Gaza against Israeli civilians as the reason for its military offensive and closing crossings into Gaza for much of the previous two months. Following last evening’s closed Council meeting, Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert of France, which holds the Council Presidency this month, said that while there was “no formal agreement” among the 15 members, he witnessed “strong convergences” to express concern over the stepped up violence and the humanitarian situation in Gaza. “There was also strong convergence to express full support to the regional and international diplomatic efforts which are underway to resolve the crisis and to call all parties to resume peace talks,” he told reporters.