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Qureshi urges global action to end Israeli assault on Palestine ahead of UNGA session


May 20, 2021

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi urged the international community on Wednesday to persuade Israel to end its aggression against the Palestinians and to take concrete steps for a solution to the Palestine issue.

The foreign minister arrived in New York on Wednesday evening on a Palestine peace mission and to attend an emergency meeting of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), called by the Organisation of Islamic Corporation (OIC) and the Arab League.

Pakistan has joined hands with Palestine, Sudan and Turkey to take a united stance at the UNGA session scheduled today. This will be the first UN meeting that will see the physical presence of foreign ministers since the Covid-19 pandemic paralysed the world. Prior to this, UN had been holding virtual meetings in the wake of the pandemic.

Soon after his arrival in New York, Qureshi hosted a working dinner of the foreign ministers of OIC member states to discuss the situation in Palestine.

“We hope the UNGA meeting will send a strong message … to end the Israeli aggression and to take concrete steps to find a solution to the Palestine issue,” said the foreign minister while addressing the dinner.

The discussion focused on the worsening situation in Gaza and ways to formulate a unified and unequivocal response from OIC member states to Israeli aggression ahead of the UNGA meeting on Thursday evening.

Foreign Ministers Mevlut Cavusoglu of Turkey, Riyad Al-Maliki of the State of Palestine, Othman Jerandi of Tunisia and UNGA President Volkan Bozkir also attended the dinner.

Qureshi noted that Israel’s use of indiscriminate and disproportionate force against innocent Palestinians had enraged the entire Muslim ummah.

Israeli aggression has led to the loss of numerous innocent lives, including women and children, he said, reiterating Pakistan’s strongest possible condemnation of Israeli actions.

He said Israel had launched a deliberate and systematic assault against Palestinian worshippers at the Al Aqsa mosque during the month of Ramazan, violating the sanctity of the holy site.

The foreign minister also condemned Israel’s policy of the expansion of illegal settlements, forced eviction of Palestinians from their homes and demolition of their houses with impunity.

Qureshi expressed his deep gratitude to all brotherly OIC countries, who along with Pakistan, played a proactive role in convening the special meeting of the UNGA.

The permanent representative of Pakistan at the UN, Ambassador Munir Akram, and the ambassador of Pakistan in Washington, Dr Asad Majeed Khan, also attended the dinner.

A statement issued by Pakistan’s UN mission said that the foreign minister’s visit to New York was part of Pakistan’s intensive diplomatic outreach to mobilise international support for ending the ongoing Israeli aggression against Palestinians.

The foreign minister will address the special session of the UNGA today and highlight Pakistan’s stance on this issue.

The UNGA session follows an intensive international effort to secure a ceasefire in the occupied Palestinian territories after a week of deadly cross-border violence.

Earlier UN efforts to enforce a ceasefire were blocked by the United States (US). For the third time in a week, the US on Sunday blocked a joint statement from the UN Security Council (UNSC), which called for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Palestine.

In his address to the Security Council, UN Secretary-General António Guterres also called for ending the current “senseless” cycle of violence in the Middle East.

Terming the hostilities “utterly appalling”, the secretary-general warned that hopes of coexistence and peace between Palestinians and Israelis were being pushed even farther to the horizon.

“[The] fighting must stop. It must stop immediately,” he said. “Rockets and mortars on one side and aerial and artillery bombardments on the other must stop. I appeal to all parties to heed this call.”

On Wednesday, a UN relief agency called for an immediate ceasefire to allow humanitarian assistance to reach the victims.

“Gaza’s one million children are reeling from the mounting consequences of [a] violent conflict with nowhere safe to turn. Lives have been lost and families shattered,” said United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

Fore’s comments followed a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, stating that only five trucks in a 24-vehicle humanitarian convoy had been able to enter southern Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing. Israeli authorities closed the crossing only hours after reopening it, blaming “militants” of launching mortars.

According to the UNICEF chief, nearly 30,000 children have been displaced in the occupied Palestinian territory since 10 May.

This underscores the need for “an immediate cessation of hostilities on humanitarian grounds to allow the entry of staff and essential supplies, including fuel, medical items, first aid kits and Covid-19 vaccines,” the UNICEF chief said.

The UN secretary-general expressed similar sentiments in a separate message, saying: “We are seeing immense human suffering and extensive damage to homes and vital infrastructure in Gaza.” He urged the international community to “ensure adequate funding for our humanitarian operations in Gaza.”

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