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Session On the Situation in the Middle East

Remarks At the United Nations Security Council Session On the Situation in the Middle East

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
United Nations Headquarters
New York, New York
January 6, 2009

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Secretary General. I wish to thank President Abbas for his presence here and also the ministers of the Arab League who have joined us.

The United States is, of course, deeply concerned about the situation in Gaza, which is clearly worsening. We have been working around the clock to try and end the violence there. The ongoing attacks against Israel and the decision that Hamas made not to respect the previous period of calm shows us that when this ends there must be new arrangements in place, not a return to the status quo ante. It is imperative that any ceasefire is durable and sustainable, and that it ensures the safety and security of Israelis and Palestinians alike.

The situation before the current events in Gaza was clearly not sustainable Hundreds of thousands of Israelis lived under the daily threat of rocket attack, and frankly, no country, none of our countries, would have been willing to tolerate such a circumstance. Moreover, the people of Gaza watched as insecurity and lawlessness increased and as their living conditions grew more dire because of Hamas’s actions which began with the illegal coup against the Palestinian Authority in Gaza.

A ceasefire that returns to those circumstances is unacceptable and it will not last. We need urgently to conclude a ceasefire that can endure and that can bring real security. This would begin a period of true calm that includes an end to rocket, mortar, and other attacks on Israelis, and allows for the cessation of Israel’s military offensive. And it must include also an end to the smuggling into Gaza and a reopening of crossings so that Palestinians can benefit from humanitarian goods and basic supplies. The November 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access provides a basis for the reopening of these crossings.

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We must find a way, with the consent and full cooperation of likeminded governments, to prevent any arms or explosives from entering Gaza, and the tunnel systems that have allowed rearmament of Hamas must be prevented from reopening.

Our goal must be the stabilization and normalization of life in Gaza. This will require a principled resolution of the political challenges in Gaza that reestablishes ultimately the Palestinian Authority’s legitimate control and facilitates the normal operation of all crossings. The November 26 Arab League statement will serve as an important guide in these efforts, efforts that are led by Egypt.

And the international community should adopt an intensive reconstruction initiative, perhaps through a donors conference, that would complement the efforts of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza. Because the Palestinian Authority actually devotes 58 percent of its budget to Gaza, there should be an effort to reconstruct Gaza.

As we strive for a ceasefire, the United States remains deeply concerned about innocent Palestinians and Israelis who are suffering. In that regard, let me assure you that we understand the urgency of an end to the fighting and that we are working around the clock to bring it into being. In this regard, we are pleased by and wish to commend the statement of president – the president of Egypt and to follow up on that initiative.

But we also are very concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza. I have had from people on the ground, American partners on the ground, detailed reports about the difficult circumstances in Gaza. I have discussed these in detail with Prime Minister Olmert and with Foreign Minister Livni, and the prime minister has informed me that as of tomorrow Israel will open a humanitarian corridor so that there can be some relief for the people of Gaza. This is something that we will follow up on, but we will also help you, Mr. Secretary General, to follow up on this through UNRWA because the problem, as I understand it, is that even if goods get into Gaza, it is not possible to distribute them within Gaza. And so the United States will actively work to relieve this circumstance. Moreover, the United States, which has already provided in the last year $85 million for humanitarian work in Gaza, will contribute more emergency aid if that is needed.

We need very much to find a solution to this problem in the short term. But it really must be a solution this time that does not allow Hamas to use Gaza as a launching pad against Israeli cities. It has to be a solution that does not allow the rearmament of Hamas. And it must be a solution that finds a way to open crossings so that Palestinians in Gaza can have a normal life. Just three weeks ago, we sat in this chamber to vote on a UN Security Council Resolution 1850. It described the principles to chart a better future for Israelis and Palestinians alike. Resolution 1850 noted that lasting peace can only be based on an enduring commitment to mutual recognition; freedom from violence, incitement, and terror; and the two-state solution, building upon previous agreements and obligations.

I think that the members of this Council know that President Bush and I personally have been very dedicated to this goal. We remain dedicated to this goal and the United States of America will remain dedicated to this goal. Because we know that the time has long since come when Palestinians who deserve to live in their own state should get that state and when Israelis who will live in peace and security when they have a peaceful neighbor should have that peace and security.

I do not mean in any way to diminish the dangers, the urgency, the challenges of this moment in Gaza. This is a crisis that we must resolve and resolve urgently. But we must also stay focused on creating the conditions that will ultimately lead to a real peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Thank you.


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