Diplomats join hands to avert Gazan catastrophe
REUTERS PhotoAs regional and international powers press for a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, diplomats around the world are flocking to Cairo, which is being seen as the center for a possible truce.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will pay a visit to the Gaza Strip today, the foreign ministry has said. Davutoğlu will travel alongside an Arab League delegation led by its leader Nabil Elaraby as part of the organization’s initiative to show support for Gaza, according to Anatolia news agency.
The Arab League’s Deputy Secretary General for Palestinian Affairs, Muhammad Sabih, said yesterday that foreign ministers from nine Arab countries would visit Gaza with their spouses. Sabih stressed that the delegation would include the foreign ministers of Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Iraq, Sudan, Lebanon, Palestine, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Ban to visit Cairo
Israel has shown few signs of being ready to call off or even briefly halt its campaign, threatening to expand its operation and with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman insisting that “the first and absolute condition for a truce is stopping all fire from Gaza.”
Hamas, however, has said Israel must halt attacks on the Gaza Strip and lift the blockade of the Palestinian territory in exchange for a truce.
“We are not against [a truce] ... but there must be specific demands met ... in summary, the Israeli thuggery and aggression must stop ... and the siege on Gaza be lifted,” Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said on Nov. 19 at a news conference in Cairo.
“Egypt was asked by the Americans, European parties and by Israel directly, to work toward a truce. [Israel] attacked and they requested the truce because their calculations failed,” he said. Israel immediately denied that its prime minister had requested a truce.
U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon also put Cairo at the center of truce talks, promising to visit the region soon.
Ban was due in Cairo yesterday for talks with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi ahead of a visit to meet Israeli and Palestinian officials tomorrow.
“I strongly urge the parties to cooperate with all efforts led by Egypt to reach an immediate ceasefire,” Ban said before leaving for Cairo.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle traveled to Jerusalem and Ramallah yesterday for cease-fire talks, his spokesman Andreas Peschke said.
Westerwelle met his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman in Jerusalem and plans to see Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak today before visiting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah, according to Peschke.
He said Berlin was looking to Egypt and the Arab League in particular to help ease tensions and foster a truce.
Russia urged an end to Palestinian rocket attacks and what it called the disproportionate Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip, saying yesterday that both were unacceptable, Reuters reported.
“We again affirm our position on the inadmissibility of firing at Israeli regions and of disproportionate strikes on Gaza,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Meanwhile, a group of 38 aid agencies yesterday urged the international community to take action to secure a ceasefire in Gaza to prevent “another widespread humanitarian disaster.” The groups also called on the international community to pressure Israel to keep crossings into Gaza open to allow “essential humanitarian aid” into the territory as hostilities with Israel continue.
“World leaders cannot sit by while civilian casualties in Gaza and Israel continue to mount,” said Oxfam country director Nishant Pandey.
“We urgently need to enforce a ceasefire,” Pandey said in the statement, saying the ongoing conflict would only make life worse for civilians already suffering the impact of five years of an Israeli blockade and an Israeli war between December 2008 and January 2009.