World hails Israel-Hamas ceasefire, thanks Egypt
WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
A group of pro-Israel supporters gather in Times Square to dance and sing in celebration of the ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, in New York, November 21, 2012. REUTERS photoThe United Nations, United States and world powers welcomed a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on Wednesday, and thanked Egypt's new government for its successful first turn on the diplomatic stage.
World powers were relieved by the deal, which may offer at least temporary respite from bloodshed in Gaza and southern Israel, but puts them in the debt of Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi, who sprang from the Muslim Brotherhood.
US President Barack Obama, re-elected this month after a first term in which the Middle East peace process moved not one pace further down its supposed "road map," led a chorus of approval for Morsi's mediation work.
Morsi, a leading member of the Islamist group the Muslim Brotherhood, was elected in June this year in Egypt's first election since a popular revolt brought down secular strongman Hosni Mubarak.
He resigned from his Brotherhood-led party, the FJP, and vowed to represent all Egyptians, but his elevation raised concerns about Cairo's peace treaty with Israel and its ties with Hamas, part of the Brotherhood movement.
In the first big crisis of his tenure, however, Morsi was hailed as a peace broker, working with US officials to arrange a truce.
"The president thanked President Morsi for his efforts to achieve a sustainable ceasefire and for his personal leadership in negotiating a ceasefire proposal," the White House said in a statement.
Obama also reaffirmed the "close partnership" between Washington and Cairo, the White House said, adding that the two leaders "agreed on the importance of working toward a more durable solution to the situation in Gaza." The US leader also praised a more natural Washington ally, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but again stressed Egypt's role in securing the deal that it is hoped will end Hamas' rocket attacks and Israeli air strikes.
"The president expressed his appreciation for the prime minister's efforts to work with the new Egyptian government to achieve a sustainable ceasefire and a more durable solution to this problem," a White House statement said.
"The president commended the prime minister for agreeing to the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, which the president recommended the prime minister do, while reiterating that Israel maintains the right to defend itself," it said.
The UN Security Council issued a statement to "strongly commend" Morsi for his efforts, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed relief.
"I commend the parties for stepping back from the brink, and I commend President Morsi of Egypt for his exceptional leadership," Ban said.
Despite debating their response for several hours, Security Council members agreed on a statement that called "on the parties to uphold the agreement and to act seriously to implement its provisions in good faith." Canada also praised Egypt, while criticizing Palestinian militants.
"Canada welcomes this ceasefire and hopes terrorist cells based in Gaza will abide by the terms," Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said. "The Egyptian government showed leadership and responsibility as a major regional state." Protests erupted in several cities around the world, some calling for peace, others expressing sympathy with the Palestinian cause. One of the biggest was in Buenos Aires, where 2,000 Argentines gathered at the Israeli embassy.
European Union leaders, Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy, also welcomed the ceasefire, while cautiously stressing that the parties must "ensure its implementation and to prevent the restart of violence." Pledging EU support for the peace process, their statement added that the events of the last days "stress the urgent need to move towards a two-state solution allowing both sides to live side-by-side in peace and security." Global oil prices had been rising before the ceasefire, with chaos in the Middle East boosting supply concerns, but they fell back to finish the day steady after news of the ceasefire broke. US stocks rose slightly.