UNITED NATIONS - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appealed for restraint from all sides after clashes erupted in East Jerusalem Tuesday, pledging to push for a resumption of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians in a bid to find a solution to the long-running conflict. According to media reports, the clashes broke out following last weeks announcement by Israel of plans to build 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem, a move that was condemned by Ban and by the diplomatic Quartet that comprises the United Nations, the United States, Russia and the European Union. As I have said before I say again, directly and without equivocation: settlements are illegal under international law, the Secretary-General emphasised at his monthly press conference on Tuesday in New York. He underscored that the status of Jerusalem, a city holy to three religions, is subject to final negotiation. I call for restraint and calm by all. Mr Ban will leave for Moscow for the next Quartet meeting, where he said he will work with its members and the two sides to jump-start talks to pay the way for an end to the conflict. From the Russian capital, he will travel to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, where he hopes to see the situation on the ground in Gaza. Characterising the closure of the Gaza Strip as counterproductive, he said that it destroys hope - for a better life and for recovery - for residents. Further, the blockade undercuts moderates and empowers extremists, and destroys legitimate business and drives commerce underground, he pointed out. It blocks the road to a peaceful future for both sides in this conflict, the Secretary-General said, stressing that it is time for a change of direction.