Efforts to end current Gaza ‘impasse’ imperative – UN political chief

25 March 2009
The main commercial Karni Crossing

A top United Nations official today called for progress to be made in implementing a January Security Council resolution – which calls for a durable ceasefire in Gaza, free access for relief workers and the re-opening of crossings – to break the current impasse and lift the cloud of uncertainty hanging over the region.

Two months have passed since unilateral ceasefires were declared to end the three-week offensive launched by Israel on 27 December 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 the densely populated areas of Gaza, which also reduced homes, schools, hospitals and marketplaces to rubble.

“Despite international engagement and support, very little concrete progress has been made on key issues” outlined in resolution 1860, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe told the Council in an open meeting.

“The intolerable situation at Gaza’s crossings remains the key impediment to bringing help – and hope – to the people of Gaza,” he stressed.

Although the amount of goods entering Gaza has increased and the Israeli Cabinet announced earlier this week that more food would be allowed into the area, “the quality and quantity of imports are insufficient compared to needs,” Mr. Pascoe underscored.

He repeated the UN’s call on Israel to meet its obligations under international humanitarian law and open the crossings to allow supplies and reconstructions materials in to help rebuild Gaza.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that the ongoing restriction on the entry of cash into the area and the inability of many, including Palestinian Authority (PA) employees, to withdraw their salaries from banks is impacting the livelihoods of some 500,000 Gazans.

“We continue to be concerned that, despite Egyptian efforts, no ceasefire regime is in place,” Mr. Pascoe told the meeting, which heard from dozens of speakers.

In spite of stepped-up efforts, no breakthrough has been made in securing the release of Israeli captive Gilad Shalit and hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

Further, without a ceasefire in place, violence continues in the area, the Under-Secretary-General said, with over 100 rockets and mortars having been fired into Israel from Gaza and 12 Israeli airstrikes during the reporting period.

“We call for an end to all acts of violence, and for respect for international humanitarian law by all parties,” he stated.

Mr. Pascoe also noted that the Board of Inquiry set up by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to investigate incidents involving death and damage at UN premises in Gaza during the hostilities will submit its report early next month.

He called on the so-called diplomatic Quartet – comprising the European Union (EU), Russia, the United States and the UN – and the international community to take concerted action to bring stability to Gaza and revive the Middle East peace process.

“We need to have both Israeli and Palestinian governments that are clearly committed to the two-State solution,” the official said. “We need a combination of negotiations, the implementation of commitments on the ground, and a strategy for de-escalating tensions and addressing the urgent humanitarian needs in Gaza.”


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