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Rt Hon Winston Peters, Minister For Foreign Affairs: Speech To UN General Assembly: 66th Plenary Meeting, 78th Session

Mr President,

The situation in Gaza is an utter catastrophe.

New Zealand condemns Hamas for its heinous terrorist attacks on 7 October and since, including its barbaric violations of women and children. All of us here must demand that Hamas release all remaining hostages immediately.

At the same time, the facts on the ground in Gaza are absolutely clear. More than 32,000 people have been killed. Millions have been displaced. Warnings ring in our ears that famine in Gaza is imminent.

Indeed, Palestinian civilians continue to bear the brunt of Israel’s military actions, humanitarian and medical workers are being killed, and health facilities and vital infrastructure have been destroyed.

Gaza, which was already facing huge challenges before this conflict, is now a wasteland. Worse still, another generation of young Palestinians – already scarred by violence – is being further traumatised.

Since the start of the current crisis in Gaza, the veto has been used five times to prevent the Security Council from acting decisively. This has seen the Council fail in its responsibility to maintain international peace and security.

New Zealand is a long-standing opponent of the use of the veto. We have actively supported the Veto Initiative from its inception and remain a proud proponent of Resolution 76/262.

New Zealand welcomed Resolution 2728, which demanded an immediate ceasefire for the month of Ramadan, leading to a lasting sustainable ceasefire. We call on all parties to this conflict to comply with Resolution 2728 without delay.

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We acknowledge Israel’s belated announcements that it will allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza. Israel must do everything in its power to enable safe, rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access.

Israel cannot now be under any misconceptions as to its legal obligations. The provisional measures ordered by the International Court of Justice are clear and must be complied with fully and immediately.

New Zealand offers its full support for the mandate of Sigrid Kaag, Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza. Last week we announced a financial contribution from New Zealand to support Kaag’s Mechanism to maximise aid flows into Gaza.

New Zealand looks forward to the outcome of the investigations into serious allegations that have been made against certain UNRWA staff because UN Agencies, including UNRWA, have a critical role to play in meeting the needs of Palestinians. Israeli constraints on UNRWA’s ability to operate in Gaza must be lifted.

New Zealand is gravely concerned by repeated indications from Israel that it may soon launch a military offensive into Rafah. Palestinian civilians must not be made to pay the price of defeating Hamas.

The risks of the wider region being further drawn into this conflict also remain alarmingly high. We strongly urge regional actors, including Iran, to exercise maximum restraint.

Israelis and Palestinians deserve to live in peace and security. There is overwhelming support in the international community – including from New Zealand – for a two-state solution. Achieving this will require serious negotiations by the parties and must involve a Palestinian state.

We do not accept that Israel can achieve peace and security while taking more and more territory intended for a future Palestinian state. This misguided notion must end. Building and expanding illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied territories and the forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza imperil the two-state solution, which remains the only blueprint for peace that we have.

Thank you.

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