UN Security Council urges immediate Gaza ceasefire (Lead)

January 9th, 2009 - 12:09 pm ICT by IANS  

New York, Jan 9 (DPA) The UN Security Council has urged Israel and Hamas to immediately end the Gaza conflict, a call that follows 13 days of fighting that left over 800 people dead and thousands wounded.The 15-nation Security Council late Thursday voted 14-0, with the United States abstaining, to adopt the resolution demanding the ceasefire.

The adoption of the ceasefire resolution capped three days of intense, closed-door negotiations at the United Nations headquarters to hammer out a compromise text acceptable to the permanent members with veto power - the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and foreign ministers Bernard Kouchner of France and David Miliband of Britain met repeatedly with Arab ministers and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa to forge the language of the ceasefire text.

Rice said despite her abstention the United States supports the contents of the resolution. She, in particular, called on the UN to support the peace initiative made by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Rice said that “much work remains to be done” to end hostilities between Israel and Hamas and to root out the cause of the conflict.

“Gaza should never again be allowed to be used as a launching pad for missiles against Israel,” Rice said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the adoption of the ceasefire resolution, saying that the Security Council’s decision signalled “the will of the international community”.

“It must be fully respected by all parties to this conflict,” Ban said. “This will open the way for the UN to resume urgently the delivery of humanitarian aid, food and medical supplies.”

Miliband said: “We are all very conscious that peace is made on the ground while resolutions are written in the United Nations. Our job here is to support the efforts for peace on the ground and to help turn the good words on paper into changes on the ground that are desperately needed.”

The compromise text stressed the “urgency of” and called for “an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire” leading to the withdrawal of the Israeli Defence Force from the Gaza Strip.

It sought the “unimpeded provisions and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment” and welcomed initiatives to open corridors for humanitarian assistance and a mechanism for the sustained delivery of humanitarian aid.

The text said the durable ceasefire will require “arrangements and guarantees” for its implementation. Those arrangements include a ban on the smuggling of illicit weapons and ammunition, the sustained reopening of crossings into Gaza and the support of an initiative by Egypt and other regional and international efforts that are underway
to end the conflict, which entered its 14th day Friday.

It encouraged “tangible steps” toward intra-Palestinian reconciliation and called for diplomatic efforts to reach a comprehensive peace settlement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The text endorsed the Egyptian initiative, which was made public Tuesday by President Hosni Mubarak when he met with French President Nicholas Sarkozy and later with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Cairo.

The initiative called for an immediate ceasefire that would also give time for all sides in the conflict to work out long-term issues, including the arms smuggling into Palestinian territories and through Gaza’s borders.

Mubarak favoured the immediate ceasefire and arrangements that will prevent the re-armament of Hamas.

The initiative has received support from the European Union, the United States and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

While Mubarak gave the green light to the initiative, he has so far refused to open the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, fearing that it would bring a great number of Palestinian refugees into Egyptian territory.

Israel has called for closing the reported hundreds of tunnels across Gaza’s borders, which had allowed the smuggling of an arsenal of missiles used by Hamas to hit Israel.

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