Secretary-General relieved at ceasefires called by Israel, Hamas

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon greeted by Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Mohammad Sabah al-Salim al-Sabah

19 January 2009 – Voicing relief at Israel’s unilateral decision to halt its 22-day military offensive in Gaza and Hamas’ announcement of a temporary ceasefire, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today stressed his determination to do everything possible to assist Gazans and being the reconstruction process.

Mr. Ban asked leaders gathered at the Arab Economic, Social and Development Summit underway in Kuwait to “do all possible to ensure that this tragedy does not occur again” and “to come together to prevent further violence, help the people of Gaza in this hour of desperate need and restore stability.”

A lasting halt to the fighting is essential, he said, urging Hamas to cease firing rockets and on A true end to violence, and lasting security for both Palestinians and Israelis, will only come through a just and comprehensive settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflictIsrael to withdraw its forces from Gaza.

“A durable ceasefire needs an open functioning system for the crossings in and out of Gaza, one that will immediately allow full access for humanitarian goods and personnel,” the Secretary-General stated.

“As well, the Palestinians themselves must face the challenge of reconciliation, and work to achieve a unified government under the leadership of President [Mahmoud] Abbas within the framework of the legitimate Palestinian Authority.”

He issued a call to all Arab leaders for their support in this effort, adding that “we cannot rebuild Gaza without Palestinian unity.”

Yesterday, Mr. Ban announced that he will dispatch a humanitarian needs assessment team early this week to Gaza, where three weeks of violence have claimed over 1,000 lives and wounded more than 5,000, in addition to causing widespread destruction as well as suffering for the territory's 1.5 million Palestinian residents.

He also said that he intends to launch a humanitarian appeal for Gaza in the coming days, appealing to major donor countries for generous contributions.

“A true end to violence, and lasting security for both Palestinians and Israelis, will only come through a just and comprehensive settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict,” the Secretary-General said at today’s gathering in Kuwait, underscoring the need to end the occupation that began in 1967.

“We need only political will and action,” he told the leaders. “Peace has remained an elusive goal for far too long.”

Mr. Ban arrived in Kuwait from Egypt, where he addressed the Conference on Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance in Gaza in the Egyptian seaside resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. His efforts to secure a diplomatic solution to the three-week crisis, which began on 27 December when Israel launched a military operation in Gaza with the stated aim of ending Hamas rocket attacks against Israel, also took him to Damascus, Cairo, Amman, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Ankara and Beirut.


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