World leaders speak on de-escalating Israel-Gaza War: Who said what in Cairo Summit for Peace?

Ahram Online , Saturday 21 Oct 2023

The Cairo Summit for Peace started on Saturday in Egypt's New Administrative Capital to address Israel-Gaza war de-escalation and pursue a ceasefire, bringing together nine leaders and five premiers from Arab and European countries, along with high-level representatives from the United Nations, the European Union and the African Union.

Cairo summit
A still photo of Arab and foreign leaders attending the Cairo Summit for Peace in Egypt on Saturday


The summit kicked off a little over an hour after the opening of the Rafah border crossing to the Gaza Strip on Saturday morning per an agreement, allowing 20 trucks carrying humanitarian aid and medical supplies, provided by multiple regional and international parties, to enter the strip in order to deliver some relief to 2.3 million Palestinians who have been struggling under an Israeli blockade for two weeks ago.

The Cairo Summit for Peace, called by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, aims to discuss ways to halt the escalation in the Gaza Strip, pursue a ceasefire for the Israel-Gaza war, deliberate on reviving the peace process to find a just solution for the Palestinian Cause.

During his opening speech, President El-Sisi reaffirmed Egypt's unwavering support for the Palestinian Cause and proposed a roadmap to end the current humanitarian crisis in Gaza and revive the path of peace.

The Egyptian president criticized the inequality and double standards in dealing with the loss of human lives.

"Where are the values of human civilization that we have built over long millennia and decades? Where is equality of human souls without discrimination or segregation or double standards?" he asked.​

"Egypt condemns, in the clearest terms, the targeting, killing, and intimidation of all peaceful civilians. At the same time, Egypt expresses its deep shock that the world is standing by idly, while the catastrophic humanitarian crisis unfolds," El-Sisi said.

The Egyptian president emphasized that these practices, including collective punishment, blockade, starvation, and pressure toward forced displacement, run counter to the principles of international law and the agreements established by the civilized world to prevent such actions.

The Egyptian president also reiterated that Cairo categorically rejects the displacement of Palestinians from their land under any circumstances. 

"Anyone who believes that the Palestinian people, who are proud, steadfast, and resilient, would be willing to abandon their land, even under occupation or bombardment, is mistaken in their understanding of the nature of this people," El-Sisi added.

Palestinian President Abbas: We will not leave our land!

Addressing the summit, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned against the attempts to displace Palestinians from Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem.  

“We will not leave and we will remain in our Arab land," Abbas said.

The Palestinian president rejected the targeting of civilians by both sides and called for the release of all prisoners and detainees on both sides.

He said the Palestinian people are facing brutal aggression by Israel, warning that the cycle of violence is constantly renewed due to the absence of justice and neglect of the rights of Palestinians.

“The two-state solution and ending the occupation according to a clear timetable is the solution to the current crisis," Abbas said, calling on the UN Security Council to assume its responsibilities towards the Palestinian people.

Jordan's King Abdullah II: Peace needs justice!

Addressing the summit, King Abdullah II of Jordan voiced his deep concern about the recent acts of violence that have taken a toll on innocent civilians on all sides.

"I am deeply disturbed and saddened by the acts of violence that have targeted innocent civilians in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel."

"The relentless bombardment in Gaza is both brutal and unequivocally condemned on multiple fronts. It amounts to collective punishment for a population under siege, a clear breach of international humanitarian law, and a war crime," the Jordanian royal said.

He decried international silence in the face of the Israeli imposition of a complete blockade on the Gaza Strip.

"The message heard loud and clear in the Arab world is that the lives of Palestinians are considered less important than the lives of Israelis, and human rights have limitations that depend on borders, circumstances, and religious differences."

The Jordanian royal added that immediate priorities revolve around ending the violence in Gaza and safeguarding the lives of civilians in accordance with our shared values and international law.

Moreover, King Abdullah II called for the sustained delivery of essential humanitarian aid and the unwavering rejection of any displacement of Palestinians.

The Jordanian royal stressed: "The Israeli leadership must realize, once and for all, that a state can never thrive if it is built on the foundations of injustice."

UN Secretary-General: All legitimate rights must be heeded

For his part, the Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres said "Israelis must see their legitimate needs for security materialized, and Palestinians must see their legitimate aspirations for an independent State realized, in line with United Nations resolutions, international law and previous agreements."

"As we focus on ending the bloodshed, we cannot lose sight of the only realistic foundation for true peace and stability: a two-state solution," he added.

During his speech, Guterres, who visited a closed Rafah border crossing on Friday, affirmed that the people of Gaza need a commitment to a continuous delivery of aid.

"We are working nonstop with all parties that are relevant to make it happen."

He pleaded for a "humanitarian ceasefire" in the war between Israel and Hamas militants that has devastated much of Gaza, demanding "action to end this godawful nightmare".

The United Nations’ chief said that Hamas’ “assault” on Israel “can never justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”

He called for protection of civilians and the sparing of civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, and U.N. premises, from the bombardment.

The UN secretary-general said that the grievances of the Palestinian people are legitimate and long.

Guterres pointed to the “the wider context” of war, saying that the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “the only realistic foundation for a true peace and stability.”

Saudi Foreign Minister: Israel must respect international law

Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, said that the Israeli military escalation in Gaza "must be stopped immediately," in his speech at the summit. 

The Saudi foreign minister called on the international community to compel Israel to respect international laws.

He expressed his country's opposition to attempts to forcibly displace Palestinians.

Bin Farhan called for decisive international action to end the conflict and bring stability to the region.

He noted: "We are required to put an immediate halt to what is happening, provide protection for civilians, release all the captives there according to the international law, and find a peaceful solution to this crisis so that the region might come out of this circle of constant violence and have sustainable peace and stability."

The Saudi foreign minister said: "We affirm our refusal to the violation of international humanitarian law from anybody and under any pretext," expressing his condemnation of "targeting civilians whoever they are." 

Italian Prime Minister: Ready to mediate dialogue

In her speech, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed significant concern about the displacement of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, stressing that the situation in Gaza is not merely a regional conflict but a conflict with broader implications for civilization.

PM Meloni expressed a desire for Italy to mediate a dialogue between Mediterranean countries and the EU.

She called on world leaders to prioritize the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza, stressing the importance of protecting the Palestinian people.

Meloni noted that terrorism has had a destabilizing impact on various states in the region and called for standing by innocent people during times of crisis.

She also stressed the importance of de-escalation in the ongoing violence in Gaza and underscored the necessity of launching a political initiative to resolve the conflict based on the two-state solution.

Omani Deputy PM: Apply international law to the Palestinian Cause!

In his speech to the summit, the Omani Deputy Prime Minister for Defence Affairs Shihab bin Tarik Al Said stressed his country's rejection of the Israeli military escalation in Gaza.

 He stressed the international community's responsibility in the face of this humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.

"We hold the international community responsible for reaching a comprehensive and just peace for the Palestinian cause," bin Tarik Al Said said.

"We need to apply the rules and decisions of international law to the Palestinian Cause."

Arab League Secretary-General: Ceasfire and humanitarian aid to Gaza

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Secretary-General of the Arab League, told the summit that the international community should pursue two parallel tracks at the current moment: working toward a ceasefire in tandem with delivering humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

He emphasized that the current Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip represents a violation of international humanitarian law.

"We reject the indiscriminate targeting of civilians and we also denounce statements that label some parties as 'barbaric' and describe other nations as 'civilized'."

Aboul Gheit emphasized the necessity of opening a safe passage for delivering aid to the entire population of Gaza.

"We have a significant worry that we could slide into a religious conflict and an expansion of the confrontation," he said, stressing the importance of working to avoid a regional war.

European Council chairman: mediation needed to end the violence

President of the European Council Charles Michel strongly condemned the tense attack conducted by Hamas against Israel and the Israelis.

He emphasized the need to mobilize all possible efforts to mediate the conflict and bring an end to the violence.

Michel also reiterated Israel's right to self-defence in accordance with international law.

To ensure the protection of civilians, especially children, Michel highlighted the importance of providing humanitarian aid, including water, food, and medicine.

 He also emphasized the importance of cooperation with Egyptian authorities to facilitate aid delivery to the Palestinian people, highlighting the EU’s commitment to support these efforts.

"It is our responsibility to avoid the spread of this conflict, contain it, and find common solutions which is the prime goal of this meeting,” Michel stated.

 Additionally, he asserted the necessity of implementing a sustainable two-state solution.

Bahraini King: Two state-solution

King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa of Bahrain affirmed his support for the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to establish their independent and sovereign state, based on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, according to the two-state solution and the UN resolutions.

"The two-state solution is the real guarantee for coexistence between the peoples of Palestine and Israel side by side in peace and security," he stressed.

King Hamad extended his thanks to the Egyptian president for his invitation to hold the summit.

Turkish Foreign Minister: Palestinian suffering must end 

Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Hakan Fidan told the summit that the Israeli occupation targeted Palestinian civilians in their homes and hospitals in Gaza, stressing: "There must be a commitment to international law and the facilitation of humanitarian aid delivery to Gaza."

Turkey cannot tolerate additional suffering for the Palestinian people, Fidan said.

He emphasized that achieving peace is of strategic importance since the ongoing conflict could lead to serious repercussions in the region.

 "We need to revitalize every effort to return to a peace process based on a two-state solution and an independent and sovereign Palestinian state based on the 4 June 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital."

"This is not only a must for peace in the region but also a strategic imperative for the international security and stability."

Fidan added: "We have to go beyond agreeing and start implementing this vision."

"Israel aims to normalize Palestinians' suffering. We say never ... never for Palestinians ... never for anybody else," he stressed.

Kuwaiti Crown Prince: Immediate ceasefire needed

Kuwait's Crown Prince, Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, urged the immediate cessation of military operations and the establishment of safe passages to facilitate aid access to the Gaza Strip.

"We follow with profound pain the escalation of the military operations executed by the Israeli forces against our brothers and sisters in the Gaza Strip and the reality of collective punishment that they are subjected to," he said.

The Kuwaiti Crown Prince said targeting innocent civilians through continuous airstrikes has resulted in the killings of hundreds of innocent civilians; men, women, and children.

Spanish Prime Minister: Summit can be the first step in reaching peace

During his speech, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez asserted that it is time for the international community to "act boldly" regarding what is happening in the Gaza Strip at this critical moment." 

“This summit must be the first step towards restoring peace in the region and breaking this terrible cycle of violence,” Sánchez stated.

"The situation can dramatically worsen if the international community doesn’t act," he added.

Moreover, the Spanish PM emphasized that it is essential to protect civilian lives while ensuring sustainable humanitarian access to Gaza that meets their needs.

He also said Hamas must release all hostages immediately, without any conditions, and ensure their safe return.

Sánchez stressed that world leaders cannot allow the conflict to escalate into a regional crisis, urging the international community to use political influence with all relevant parties to prevent an escalation of the conflict.

He also supported the implementation of a two-state solution to achieve peace for both Palestinians and Israelis.

UK Foreign Secretary: We must prevent instability in the region

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly stressed the need to "work together to prevent the tragic situation in Gaza from becoming a regional conflict because that is exactly what Hamas wants."

"We must ensure that Hamas doesn't win, rather we must ensure that peaceful coexistence wins," he noted.

Cleverly added: "We all mourn the dead; both Israelis and Palestinians."

"We have a duty to work together to prevent instability from engulfing the region and claiming yet more lives."

German Foreign Minister: Israel has the right to defend itself

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said: "The cause of all the suffering of these past weeks, the suffering that brings us here today, the suffering of the little girls, the mother, and the family, has a name - it was Hamas."

"Israel has the right to defend itself and to protect its people against this terror within the framework of the international law," she noted.

Baerbock affirmed the German government's solidarity with Israel, stressing: "For Germany, the security of the state of Israel is non-negotiable."

South African President: The UN must restart peace negotiation process

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, the release of captives, the lifting of the siege of Gaza, the opening of humanitarian corridors, and the urgent provision of humanitarian aid on the required scale to the people of Gaza.

"We hold the firm view that the attack on civilians in Israel, the ongoing siege of Gaza, and the decision to forcibly move the people of Gaza, together with the indiscriminate and cruel use of force through bombing and destruction of infrastructure, are violations of international law. More than that, these acts are an affront to our common humanity," he told the summit.

Ramaphosa also called for a United Nations-led negotiation process towards resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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