UN Secretary General warns against prolonging the Gaza war

Ahram Online , Thursday 19 Oct 2023

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Thursday of prolonging the Gaza war, stating that it would increase the risks of the conflict expanding.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (L) and Egypt s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry hold a press conference following their meeting in Cairo on October 19, 2023 . AFP


In a joint press conference in Cairo on Thursday with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Guterres affirmed the necessity of respecting international humanitarian law and protecting civilians.

He also stressed that international law prohibits attacking hospitals, schools, or United Nations facilities.

Guterres said Israel was subjected to a horrific attack on 7 October by Hamas, who killed, injured, and abducted numerous Israeli and foreign civilians, forcing Israel to impose a complete blockade on Gaza and launch a military campaign that resulted in multiple casualties among civilians, primarily women, children, journalists, relief workers, and United Nations staff.

The UN Secretary-General called on Hamas to release all hostages immediately and unconditionally and on Israel to ensure the immediate and unimpeded delivery of humanitarian assistance to Gaza's population.

Guterres noted that meeting both demands requires an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

The Secretary-General said Palestinians have legitimate and deep grievances after 56 years of occupation. However, he stressed that these grievances do not justify acts of terrorism.

He also stated that terrible as they may be, these attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.

Guterres said he was shocked at the scenes of death and destruction at the Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza, and he emphasized the urgent need for unobstructed humanitarian access to essential services and supplies.

He also underscored the need to provide food, water, and fuel on an adequate and sustainable scale.

Guterres said he was in Egypt to monitor the United Nations' efforts to provide substantial support to the people of Gaza.

He stressed that El-Arish Airport and the Rafah Crossing were not only vital strategically but also constituted "our sole hope and the lifeline for the people of Gaza."

The Secretary-General also praised Egypt's efforts, stating that "through its actions and openness, Egypt demonstrates how it is a pillar of multilateral cooperation, aiding in defusing tensions and alleviating pain and suffering."

In conclusion, Guterres said a permanent solution to the Palestinian issue must be reached. He agreed with the Egyptian Foreign Minister that no solution could be achieved without establishing an independent Palestinian state in line with the international resolutions and past agreements between the Palestinians and Israelis.

For his part, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry stated that Egypt is keen on ensuring the continued operation of the Rafah Crossing and El-Arish Airport for receiving humanitarian aid intended for the Gaza Strip.

Shoukry added, "I have emphasized to the UN Secretary-General the importance of a ceasefire and the need to refrain from targeting civilians in the Gaza Strip, as well as the necessity of delivering humanitarian assistance."

He asserted that forced displacement of Palestinians to neighbouring countries is not a viable option, agreeing with the Secretary-General's view that targeting UN organizations in Gaza constitutes “a blatant violation of international humanitarian law and must cease immediately."

The UN Secretary-General is scheduled to participate in the international conference convened by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi on Saturday.

On Thursday, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry held extensive talks with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, in the presence of delegations from both sides.

Meeting with UK Foreign Secretary in Cairo

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his British counterpart James Cleverly met in Cairo on Thursday to discuss the recent escalation in the Gaza Strip.

The two ministers discussed the need to stop the war in Gaza, deliver humanitarian aid, and prevent further escalation.

Shoukry stressed the importance of international efforts to urge the parties to calm the situation and stop the escalation immediately. He also underscored the importance of avoiding targeting civilians and warned against the risks of expanding the conflict to other areas in the region.

The two ministers also discussed the need to address the root causes of the conflict, including the lack of hope and the absence of a political horizon for a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue.

Mr. Cleverly expressed his appreciation for Egypt’s efforts to de-escalate the situation and provide humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. He also welcomed Egypt’s initiative to call for a peace summit on Saturday.

In a post on his social media accounts on Thursday, the UK Foreign Secretary stated that his visits to Egypt, Turkey and Qatar aimed to secure the release of British hostages, stop the violence from spreading to the region, and ensure emergency aid got into Gaza.

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