Durable peace must be foundation for rebuilding Gaza, Ban tells donors meeting

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad

2 March 2009 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed today to international donors to provide the crucial funds needed for Gaza’s reconstruction after the recent Israeli offensive, while stressing once again the importance of a durable ceasefire and a comprehensive peace deal.

“I call for action now,” Mr. Ban declared before the International Conference on the Palestinian Economy and Gaza Reconstruction, taking place in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Coinciding with his presentation at the Conference, an opinion piece by the Secretary-General also appeared today in media around the world, including India’s The Hindu, Forbes.com, Asharq Al-Awsat and France’s Libération, pressing the case for action on Middle East peace in concert with Gaza’s reconstruction.

Israel launched a three-week offensive in Gaza on 27 December 2008 with the stated aim of ending rocket attacks by Hamas and other groups. At least 1,300 Palestinians were killed and some 5,300 were injured in the heavy bombardment and fighting in densely populated areas, which reduced homes, schools, hospitals and marketplaces to rubble.

At today’s Conference, Mr. Ban urged donors to be generous in their support for rebuilding the battered territory, stressing that “the people of Gaza cannot and should not wait any longer.”

While appealing for the much-needed financial aid, he also stressed the need to consider the broader issues. “We need to think of the big picture. We need to think comprehensively.

“When building a house, we begin with the foundation,” he noted. “So too with our work today. When it comes to rebuilding Gaza, this foundation must be a durable ceasefire.

“And that, in turn, requires us to face a number of political realities – and to deal with them squarely,” he stated.

The Secretary-General stressed that the first priority must be to ensure open crossings, which are vital for aid delivery and to implement social and economic programme – the starting point of reconstruction.

“The situation at the border crossings is intolerable. Aid workers do not have access. Essential commodities cannot get in,” he said, noting that construction materials and spare parts are needed to repair damaged water and sanitation systems and there is no concrete or steel to build homes or shelters.

Mr. Ban also emphasized the need for Palestinian reconciliation, saying that “without it, we would have to think very creatively about how we can implement our recovery plans,” as well as the full engagement of a new Israeli government and other key players.

While dealing with Gaza’s reconstruction, it is also vital to rebuild political relationships – among Palestinians, between Palestinians and Israelis, between Israel and the Arab world, he added.

“If ever there were a time to think freshly, to lead boldly, it is now,” Mr. Ban stated, stressing that there is only one viable future – Palestinians and Israelis living side by side in peace and security.

In his article published today, the Secretary-General continued to advocate for seizing the moment to push the peace process forward.

“Our objective should not be merely to return to the situation that prevailed before December 27 in Gaza, or in the peace process,” he writes, stressing that while Palestinians must make progress on unity and security, Israel must freeze settlement construction as an overriding priority.

“The international community must assume its responsibilities to facilitate progress – and, where necessary, insist on it,” he maintains. “In the aftermath of the tragic conflict in Gaza, this is more urgent than ever,” he concludes.

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