New Zealand is deeply concerned about the recent escalation of violence and the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, in a conflict that could and should have been avoided.
Yesterday, Mr President, my Prime Minister, The Right Honourable John Key, moved a motion in the New Zealand Parliament expressing that concern, as well as grave concern at the appalling and unacceptable number of civilian casualties. The motion, which was passed unanimously, also gave strong support to international efforts to obtain a ceasefire and end to hostilities, so that both parties can return to negotiations.
It is clear, Mr President, that the parties have fallen short of their obligations to protect civilians, including through indiscriminate firing into civilian populations. This undermines basic precepts of acceptable international behaviour.
The rapidly escalating death and injury toll is, as my Prime Minister said, appalling and unacceptable. There is an urgent need for immediate steps to prevent further civilian casualties. New Zealand urges all parties to take the necessary measures to protect civilians, including through further “humanitarian pauses”.
There is also a need for broader measures to alleviate the ongoing humanitarian situation on the ground. In particular, urgent assistance is required for over-whelmed medical services, and for the unprecedented number of displaced civilians (people who, in the words of my Prime Minister, have “nowhere to go”); numbers which are already double those displaced during the 2009 crisis, numbers that are still growing rapidly.
Prime Minister Key said that New Zealand strongly supports international efforts to obtain an immediate ceasefire, and joins this Council’s continuing call for an end to all hostilities; adding that New Zealand “[had] been deeply disappointed that, to date, ceasefire initiatives have failed”. We urge all parties to continue efforts to de-escalate the situation.
These latest incidents reinforce the importance of a sustainable resolution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. It should be clear to all now that a continuation of the status quo is untenable. New Zealand calls on both parties to return to the negotiating table, to work towards a meaningful and permanent two-state solution. A credible political horizon is vital, including a sustainable end to the blockade of Gaza.
This pattern of conflict has gone on too long, and the cost to innocent civilians is too high. This violence only sows more seeds of resentment and revenge that both sides, and the wider international community, will reap in years to come.
In short, Mr President, New Zealand endorses and supports the Secretary-General’s plea this morning to stop the fighting, start the dialogue and tackle its root causes.