UN chief to fly to Mideast in peace push: official

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will fly to the Middle East on Saturday in an effort to end the latest violence in Gaza, a top official told the Security Council on Friday.

Under secretary general for political affairs Jeffrey Feltman said a two-state solution to the conflict was the only way to break the "seemingly endless cycle" of Israeli-Palestinian violence. "The secretary general is prepared to do his part. He will leave for the region tomorrow to express solidarity with the Israelis and Palestinians," Feltman told emergency talks at the Council.

The UN chief's visit will help Israelis and Palestinians "in coordination with regional and international actors, end the violence and find a way forward," Feltman said.

The senior official reiterated UN calls for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and radical Palestinian group Hamas.

"Unless we address the root causes of the current escalation this dreadful violence will occur again and again. We cannot return to the status quo," he said. "Once calm is restored it is imperative to immediately tackle the underlying causes," he added, listing the smuggling of weapons, the reopening Gaza's crossing points and Palestinian governance.