UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced to reporters in New York on January 19 that Iran had been invited to the Geneva II peace conference, a conference between Syrian government representatives and opposition leaders, meant to transfer power from Syria's ruler, Bashar al-Assad, to a transitional government. As a condition for the invitation, Iran has agreed to support the full implementation of the Geneva communique, including the establishment of the transitional governing body, overturning Iran's Syrian ally.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called in the ambassadors of Britain, France, Italy, and Spain on January 17 to “stress to them that their perpetual one-sided stance against Israel and in favor of the Palestinians is unacceptable and creates the impression they are only seeking ways to blame Israel,” said his spokesman.
Former Prime Minister of Israel Ariel Sharon, who died on January 11 after spending eight years in a coma following a major stroke in 2006, was laid to rest on January 13. Sharon’s funeral ceremonies began Monday morning with an official ceremony at the Knesset, where the late prime minister’s body lay in state on Sunday. Among those delivering speeches at the ceremony were Israel’s President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
Israel’s housing ministry published plans on January 10 to build 1,400 new housing units in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In response to the announcement, Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said, “Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu sent a message to Mr. Kerry today, and the message reads: Do not continue your peace efforts.... They know very well that this destroys the peace process.”
An Arab Christian has gotten the go-ahead from Israeli tourism officials to erect a 100-foot statue of Jesus in the Muslim-dominated city of Nazareth.